Backyard Patio Ideas – 2017 Guide

backyard patio

 

Most of my mail is made of questions asking about backyard patio ideas, you have a small yard or garden, you maybe have a pool but you can’t get it to shine like the magazine photos. Here’s where this guide comes into play. There is a tendency to subvert expectation in good design and because of mass production of assets, many real life designs are boring predictable. Stop reading this if you haven’t seen this picture:

The white couch

White lounges, square table that comes just to where the seating area is. IT’s cool, it’s clean, it has that upscale nightclub vibe, it’s a lie. Have you ever touched the couches in a nightclub, they are either sticky or are smell like they took a chemical bath in chlorine. Same goes for the patio furniture that imitates it. It’s not really a style, it’s more like rushing trough a catalog and picking what jumps at you first and doesn’t clash with the set-up you already have i.e. white.

backyard patio by the water

 

Sure, use them on a natural stone backdrop, and some nice water features or carve out the table fill it with ruby red fire glass and set it on fire. It’s utterly stunning a timeless representation of the class created by modern design. But you rarely see that. And for everything white does well, yellow or red could do better.

If you are however set on white upholstery, you need to add more to the scene, more character more personality. A good interpretation I saw was using a wood frame. Use hard grain wood for the bed frame, it keeps just enough class, but the wood comes with loads of character. The white color does work with a lot of finishings so it blends into the organic feel of the wood. That’s the thing about minimalist features, they are neutral and easy to blend with other feature, but you have to blend so the scene doesn’t become dead and dry.

For more class, again, you need to make an effort, just doing the white lounge theme isn’t enough, when everyone is doing it. Add a privacy panel in front of your view, just hinting at obstructing the view of “others” and a textile roof to raise the space above the rest of the yard in terms of elegance.

Related: Shop Outdoor Privacy Panels here.
Or you can literally platform it and pushes it above the rest of the garden raising it above everything. Add a projector installation in front of it and enjoy your home cinema experience.

Making the patio a functional space, a viewing space for movies during the summer nights which justifies the opulence. Driving an expensive car on the weekends is snobbery, going to the track and using it to it’s potential, that is lifestyle luxury. You buy the thing for the experience not for the objects it’self. For the extra inch, use a canopy bed and bind modern and colonial in an excellent example of timeless class.

fire glass for your fire pit

Touch of color

But what if you didn’t use the white tones for class but rather as a modern counterpoint to the rest of your garden, well, you are stuck in 2010 then. Go bolder for a modern statement. Bright red chairs or yellow accents, under a red cedar pergola or sectioned off yard make a much better statement than anything white can do if you’re looking for opulence. While some stained red or light lacquered hardwood chairs around make it shine off modernity. Add light an indirect light source and add flavor to a night scene. Surround the scene with some privacy separators and some large potted plants for the illusion of intimacy. Then light them from beneath, making them just reflect light into the area. And this turns into a classy fusion of modern and organic.

In-wall backyard patio ideas

This is a very cool trick for small urban city yards or terraces, but I think it just looks very cool and that’s why I wanted to share this with you. And before you glance over this part consider what my premise is, the patio is a functional space made for people. You never have enough space for it. More space for those inside the patio always translates into a better experience and better feeling design. If you can do this without compromising side space for the people that will sit inside the scene, do it.

On the wall seating is an excellent way to get rid of unused space, from a design perspective and by moving the person back, from their point of view they get a lot more space in the front of them.

The simple version is to make a bench and fix it directly into your wall. Use this is terraces or small yards. Use some darker maple or grainy wood to make it look more distinguished. It works best on hard solid color walls and if it’s a stone wall, putt some back support also onto the wall.

The wasted space

I’ve talked about this >here<, in another post. But space around you is invisible especially under you or in front of you, <here> I compared the space you’re wasting by sitting around a table versus a lounge type seating. The basic gist is that tables are terrible in terms of space economy both visually and experientially. When you see a table in the showroom it’s fake advertising. Not even children can sit in 20 inches of space around the table. People need to expand in their environment and stretch out. And we do that in front of us, exactly where the table is.

Ever banged you hand on the table? Yes, that was bad design, it wasn’t your fault. So whenever in doubt always get a lower coffee table than a dining table. More so, get lower seats, the space under you is literally useless. The Same thing applies to the space behind you, that’s where most small spaces lose usability. You look at the size of the average long and the display size of the average table and chairs and you underestimate how it would look when you actually use it. A combination of couch and coffee table is jus that, it will stay the same whatever you’re doing.

In-wall seating is the same thing but takes the concept to another level. Placing the seats on the wall removes the space between the person and the borders of the space. Because of this, there is literally no waste of space and it significantly expands the space people perceive in front of them unless you have some visual limitations on the side.

patio seats around fire place

 

If you are redesigning a small space, please consider this and make a seat instead of the wall. Use some columns for support instead of a wall and make it look like the wall space is part of the environment. You saved at least a foot and a lot of usable space. You can also use this stylistically and offer full-size wall segments as chairs protecting your guests completely equipped with their own roof., just keep it open enough to not feel isolating.

Small space Backyard Patio Ideas

Second, best is in-wall features are fire glass and a gas burner will light up space with that warm flickering light. This works extremely well as a background light source or even an indirect light source if the flame is under direct line of sight. The third one, flowerbed, with hanging shrubbery. This isn’t however always the most space-efficient way to add green and life to a scene. Check to see if a larger single pot plant won’t be more space efficient than long drawn out shrubs inside the walls. But for very limited space that just needs some green, definitely, go with the in wall planters, spread them out and use them ass sparse accents.

Circular backyard patio ideas

This is the rule of thumb from a design point of view and you always make it the same way, foundation, path, central element, seating, and surroundings. Keep this order and you can’t go wrong. This should be what people think of when you say patio. The variation is limitless and the circular shape makes it scalable and works with almost any other features.

 

backyard patio designed around fireplace

 

When building The foundation, take care to make it as wide as it fits comfortably in your garden. Crucial concept here: comfortably: keep it relaxed and allow for breathing room even after you add your background features around your patio.

Grab a string and trace a circle around the central point. If you’re feeling creative, use multiple strings and circles and draw an irregular circular shape, just keep it the curbed concave and be considerate of all your sitting position. Don’t make it too narrow and be confident of any bend and curve, the difference between a bad circle and a design choice is the confidence of the line. If you alternate from a circle, don’t make it a circle at all anymore.

Surround it with short bushes, some lawn or counterpoint it to a play area. Link it to other areas with a path and some gravel and you are done. You have a perfectly elegant touch of a patio that will fit in whatever you have right now in your yard. The only exception is if you already have a square patio, but then you can mix and match, make one a dining area and the other a smoking area. And link them up with bright flagstone paths to make the contrast look purposeful.

But back to the single circle patio. I love this in the back ends of long gardens with a long winding path back to the house and some short shrubs nestling the occupants and framing the view back towards the house. It symbolizes a little green oasis when the lawn immediately near the house is filled with a playground or a dining area. Set space in between gives a figurative distance between real life and the moments you’re sitting there.

Upgraded backyard patio ideas

For larger spaces and larger circles use wood or alternating rows of white and dark tiles or bricks. The seating can be either a simple knee-high concrete wall or a full lounge area with modern seats and a semicircular pergola, for the middle you can use a campfire or a beginning of a longer pond. With large patios, you can use more define mid-ground elements, like a waterfall, some concrete art pieces or some interesting chest high brush scattered from place to place.

 

backyard patio with trellace

 

That’s the amazing part of being a circle, the space and area become a feature. Your patio is the centerpiece, the eye will instantly be drawn to it in a good way, but it absorbs the attention instead of just being there which happens whit a patio that acts as a transition space between house and garden.

Related: Backyard Patio Ideas Guide

Privacy walls with wooden spindles, small tabouret seats, long dark wood table. White concrete tiles intertwined with dark grass some pillars and some potted trees for a caribian urban garden

Or make it the center stage, if you have larger yards, surround a large circular patio at the of your yard with tall trees on three fifths of it, the borders, the fence or the dull cityscape. This will underline the large circular patio and will give it a stage effect. It will become a distinct space within your garden. As host for the main event has a fire pit, a fountain or a large pond of curved but irregular shapes.

Natural stone backyard patio ideas

From a universal patio design idea, we move on to a stylish universality. Natural stone outcrops are the best finishing any wall can have and if you can pull it off use it as a background wall or feature everywhere. Yes, if you get it pronounced, like a natural outcrop, natural stone is interesting enough to work as features just on itself.

 

backyard patio with tiki torches

 

A second good alternative for patio backgrounds is the vertical garden. Wall-to-wall planters or greens and hanging greens reaching out from the walls to get you. This is more scalable than the natural stone wall as natural stone looks improvised in small areas if not properly integrated. While if you use separators and fake walls you can get a decent effect with multiple 7+ small potted plants even in very small spaces.

Another think natural rock makes look amazing is terracing. I would encourage you is to always make stairs out of natural rock, even less attractive varieties like stained concrete.

There’s something about ordinary stairs that is too clean, prefabricated. Like with the white patio. You think of them and the standard comes to mind. We don’t think brick, dark flagstone or porous granite. And that standard we use and it never looks right, when associated with the definition in prefabricated like patio furniture, you see the problem and why the scene has such shallowness.

 

 

backyard patio with overhang and leather couches

patio-grotto-dining

And finally one last scene with natural rock, a very special feature, the ultimate patio, the dining grotto patio. You can put an electric car trough it and it would still have an organic feel to it and look elegant.

The wall coming out at you has such an intense personality you literally can’t ruin it with anything you add to it. This does cost a pretty penny, however, but this should always be your point of reference in terms of elegance and character, not some photoshopped IKEA catalog.

OLD world backyard patio ideas

If you can’t afford stone character forged by heat and tectonic pressure for millions of years, get the old man made character forged by mortals for centuries.

There is certain esteem we hold for the established old designs. We live in an age where 2 years create moral decay in our products and yesterday’s design always seems to fail to grab our interest in a world of 2 launches per year and summer – fall and fall – winter fashion trends.

In such a world, rustically is just as good as an expensive natural rock with mesmerizing details and patterns. I call it that because it comprises a sum of usable modern décor that you can’t really call modern, basically I fit here anything old world and understated product of manufacture and crafts rather than industry and trends.

I hesitate to call it purely old world style as colonialism and Americana is definitely new world. But it’s that mix of old hand crafted manufactory and pale wore out color tones. Now the features are harder to match and you use a traditional complementary color scheme. Which can be used with new modern elements as well but it’s not as eye gouging as using complementary colors or tonal contrasts.d

Brick

Think brick walls, brick hardscapes and crushed brick and terra cotta gravel. IN the red corner as you can say. It goes for any terra cotta fittings; thisgets absurd when you think how ubiquitous our use of terracotta is. Any traditional hacienda style roofs also fall under this class. Traditional pergolas are also made out of brick so if you try that you will have a strong signal of authenticity resonating from the large elements which are always a big plus. And worth mentioning it.

 

circular patio

 

Under brick we have a wide variety of old school fire features: fireplaces traditional pizza ovens or brick seating arrangements get to stay and use even outside their arid home climate. Brick terracing and stairs are easier on the eye than anything flat and white concrete. Another interesting thing is building amphitheaters. And seating circles. Try some type of Morrocan hideous theme or native American tabouret seating around a smoldering fire with a faux adobe nearby. Don’t go all out with the finishings, modern furniture just ruins the atmosphere.

As a general rule, we abused brick so much that it’s part of almost any design language and because it has more character and warmth than concrete it’s usually well integrated into those themes. So stick with the theme and use them as a material whenever you want as an upgrade to concrete.

Concrete

Speaking of concrete, I will talk about old concrete and concrete finishings that aren’t at least Art Deco. There’s a lot of variations and option but very similarly with the white furniture, it needs something more to have stylistic value and it generally was used as a utilitarian material, so you need to think outside the box on this one to make it work.

 

four wood chairs around the patio

 

On the other hand, it’s a very versatile material and you can find a lot of ways to integrate concrete into your backyard patio ideas. Just of the top of my head, I could think of nice half walls Half walls, in ground fire bowls, hardscapes or tables.

Anything can be concrete, but this doesn’t mean it can also work. You should be using it everywhere if you can stain it, however, if abused in its white-gray form it becomes a lazy man option. Just plastering on some stucco and given it some grain doesn’t make it all that better either.

Variations

Probably the best use of straight white concrete is fire pits. Over time it will gather up a nice used aged by fire look. And for terracing, because from the outside, it does look clean and sleek especially from a distance.

In the transparent corner we have french double doors. These amazing, they bring the room outside and the outside into the room. If you can fit them get them, not even fully transparent glass sides can compare. Let’s add some old-timey water features here, like wells and moats. I love wooden moats, but I think all water assets are great period. Try it, it’s a great break in perspective and long surfaces that have more personality than just another path.

 

wood stairs leading up to patio

 

In the brown corner, you have the king of materials wood. Use this as paneling, patio furniture, tables in fires and as regular timber features. Just leave the grain visible. It’s like buying a sports car and pushing it.

And lastly the tree patio. I’ve talked about it here <eco glass> if you want to read more, but it’s a perfectly integrated roof, sun shade, and climate control. If you have it use it if you don’t wait for a generation to grow one.

Vacation themes

Let’s talk vacation theme and how to bring the best of them into your yard.

Think historic scenery, large river stones coming out of the wall towards you and cobbled stones under your feet. Everything is natural but in man made form. This oozes character which means you can escape the urban and concrete the second you enter the scene.

Add some more aged elements from low wood chairs, large potted plants, to get a historic patio theme. Something you see in on the back of old beat novels. For a budget option uses some old granny stucco. And go overboard with the grain and texture on it. The furniture and the hardscape should bring it into the theme and make it work.

 

stoned patio flooring

 

And lastly the small scale variation to the feeling. Think of it as a European courtyard, historic setting, and modern understated finishings. The quintessentially European roughed unplastered walls. Large windows with wooden aged shutters and dense large potted plants and cobbled surface. Add 2 steps raising the sitting area if you want it to be more prominent.

Technically any seating works with this. But you have to go for the classic french coffee forged steel chairs and table. Use a central in-table fire feature for some drama. Now, you have a secret designer urban back yard that works even in the darkest of cities or American rooftops. Add even more Parisienne and make it waterproof with an industrial steel and glass roof.

Real luxury

European villas with huge French romantic double doors leading into wide terraces. Patios with large tables and ending in a large wooden pizza over. This is probably the best setup if you lack to have casual parties and really use the human element to liven things up. The double doors bring kitchen and terrace together into a communal space of joy and wide.

Slice up the rest of your garden with some old world cobbled paths and you get excellent European chic for pennies. Upgrade it with some columns arches and brick pergolas and you have a hard time getting something more elegant without breaking the bank.

Black and white marble tiles. White table. Clean cut lawns and hedges all around some columns and a textile roof over everything. Turn your highlights into late European opulence.

 

patio with white french doors

 

A later variation of that is the Mediterranean beach cottage. Imagine 60s style lounges, old school Monaco, very low tables and very square seats. Simple contemporary shapes that barely break into deco and Bauhaus chairs and features.

Maybe a rustic wood roof over everything and a backdrop of sea rocks stacked covering the wall. Maybe some lines of lavender hanging around the walls leading the eye to the horizon and decorative wicker elements. This is the birthplace of the white patio. But even here I want you to use yellow instead. The reflexes will make every golden hour feel like a Mediterranean vacation.

Modern patio design ideas

Abuse pools, that’s the counterpoint to the patio. It’s dynamic, it’s complementary. Try some visual trickery. For exmaple layering false horizons with a glass table a pool and a view. The patio is a functional setting, we chat, we laugh we eat and we relax. So modernity doesn’t just presume using shiny materials and bold tonal contrasts. It should be geared toward that, but it’s also a place built around the new modern concept of leisure.

The first line of defense against falling on the white futon cliché is the blue stone patio. Simple rectangular pale blue tiles. Add drama with fire features filled up with azure blue fire glass. Ground it all with some lava rock beds for some darker pale counterpoints.

Go monochrome, use one color and all adjoining colors up to 2 turns on the color wheel. Keep the accents dark and the surfaces pale and you get a very strong theme setting, although a bit tiresome. Use non-color walls to keep the intensity down a bit.

This is the basics of the blue stone patio. And this is usable for smaller spaces up to a point. And with very light colors. The same thing you can apply almost anywhere you want to get a theme color. Use old school color matching complementary color coordination instead of new ones.

 

modern patio designs

Scandinavian minimalist Backyard Patio Ideas

From this understated European design evolved Scandinavian minimalism. You can take the main feature like a pool and plump it up with Scandinavian furnitures. For example a minimalist lawn chair and a maximum of 3 to 4 large plants spread sparingly.

Use simple contemporary elements and clean understated design. If you must use one vibrant color element, only one and make it stand out so much you can see it from orbit. This works so well and its less, try-hard than oriental minimalism. Expand on the pool or go without and extent the simple Scandinavian restrained among your garden with clean lines and elements, even plastic and stones. This can somewhat work in small spaces. Limit the number of elements and how crowded you make it. In large spaces, it is very elegant and fresh, unlike other minimalist styles.

Think of the summer garden with a large pergola at the entrance into the garden. Imagine sloping fabric roofs leading your eyes to trough a visual maze of privacy panels featuring gray rocks, dark woods, and bright short lawns. Maybe some cast iron gates and some red leaf maple sprouts. Or with something closer to home go all out and get a fully stocked outside kitchen.

Contemporary luxury full kitchen, play area, large table and surrounding garden. This is the ideal space to socialize and entertain guests and a large pergola towering above them. A direct evolution of the southern rustic Italian garden where the whole family gathers and shares stories and food.

 

 

 

OUTDECO Privacy Panels wins “Best Outdoor Living Product of 2017” at IBS

picture of OUTDECO Best Outdoor Living Product 2017

OUTDECO Best Outdoor Living Product 2017

Exotic Pebbles and Glass, a US-based company sources some of the best decorative products from around the world. It is a proud manufacturer of modern age products perfect for adorning the lawn, patio, outdoor living rooms and gardens of its US and Canada based clients. However this blog post is written to congratulate one of our products, OUTDECO Privacy Panels on winning “Best Outdoor Living Product of 2017” at the International Builders Show (IBS) on the 12th of January. 

OUTDECO creates privacy panels and decorative outdoor privacy panels that do a great job of separating backyard space, creating privacy from neighbors, providing a perfect track for vines to grow up walls or blocking out unsightly areas. The possibilities are endless with these amazing design pieces. Their products are made from sustainably sourced hardwoods have grabbed the attention of all. 

privacy screen Privacy screen alley

The Auspicious Event at International Builder’s Show (IBS)

Winning of such an award is not only an honour for OUTDECO but also for Exotic Pebbles and Glass because we truly believe in this amazing product and want to see it in many backyards, restaurants and hotels in the near future. The highly prominent event occurred at the International Builders Show (IBS) where near about 400 entries were made. However, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shortlisted nine categories. The entire building industry of USA was impatiently waiting for the results.

 

picture of OUTDECO IBS

 

 

garden screen background

At last, when OUTDECO was declared the winner, every participant was eager to know about the speciality of it. The judges were delighted to announce it as the winner because they were amazed at their featured product- Garden Screens. Even the attendees were elated after viewing the products presented by OUTDECO.

picture of mahjong outdeco privacy panels

MAHJONG 24 x 48 inches – 60% Privacy

Reactions of the International Builders Show Judges and Attendees

The responses of attendees and judges sent a positive vibe throughout the building industry of the USA, especially North America. Both the judges and the show attendees visited OUTDECO booth to look at all the remarkable products sold by it. The viewers included renowned designers, homebuilders and architects with profound knowledge in decorative panels.   

Some of the viewers termed it as the best product, whereas others praised OUTDECO’s efforts to build something unimaginable. The audience was simply amazed at the design and the privacy that it offered. They had never imagined something as beautiful as privacy panels, which could well be used in a garden.

All these positive feedbacks are something inevitable given the creative ideas presented by OUTDECO through the Garden Screen panels. Let us look into the specific details of outdoor panels that created this much hype among the viewers and judges.

picture of multiple OUTDECO Privacy Panels

MARAKESH 24 x 48 inches – 80% Privacy (painted), STAR ANAIS 24 x 48 inches – 80% privacy (painted), LEAFSTREAM 24 x 48 inches – 60% Privacy, and BUNGALOW 24 x 48 inches – 80% Privacy

Specialities of Privacy Panels or Garden Screens

Garden screens as sold off in the name of ‘Privacy Panels’ on the website of Exotic Pebbles and Glass, is unique in terms of innovation, design and functionality. It has achieved fame and recognition due to the following features:

  1. picture of daintree outdeco privacy panels

    DAINTREE 48×70 inches – 80% Privacy

    Made from organic content

This specified point reflects Garden Screen’s innovative aspect. The presence of 97% wood fibre without any remains of synthetic glues, make the product a unique one. It scores high in sustainability and proves to be a trustworthy material given its stability and durability. For outdoor use, it matches all the specifications.

  1. It is carbon negative

Since Garden Screens are made up of timber, it works in favor of

outdoor garden screens

STAR ANAIS 24 x 48 inches – 90% Privacy

a negative footprint production. It works against the emission of carbon dioxide in the air and absorbs the excess as emanated due to human activities.

  1. Provides 10-year warranty

OUTDECO provides a 10-year warranty to users and this covers everything starting from physical deterioration to de-lamination. In addition to all this, it provides priceless advice relating to maintenance of the outdoor panel.

  1. Absence of synthetic glues

Garden screens are safe not only for workers but also for the environment, as it contains no synthetic glues, formaldehyde, VOCs and carcinogens.  This specified fact also explains its durability when exposed to exterior conditions. Since there is the absence of artificial additives in it, the harmful process of breakdown does not occur. Consequently, nature is saved from its harmful impacts.

picture of mahjong outdeco privacy panels

MAHJONG 24 x 48 inches – 60% Privacy

  1. Designed in Australia

Garden Screens is the best example of sustainable innovation. Made from waste sources, it saves deforestation and impresses customers with its carbon negative aspect. Manufactured in Australia, it excludes the virgin natural forest from its hardwood sources.

Apart from the above-mentioned points, there are other facets, which are equally impressive. It is an installation-friendly and cost effective option, which can bring success to all including homeowners, builders and designers. Given its versatility, it meets the expectations of every individual searching for an affordable screen with an upmarket style.

Another striking feature of OUTDECO is its variety and standard size that meets the need of all. Given the creative ideas of the company, every now and then, contractors are choosing its designing services. 

Orient 48 x 70 inches – 90% Privacy

picture of bungalow outdeco privacy panels

BUNGALOW 24 x 48 inches – 80% Privacy

Decor Ideas

Screen panels can give your backyard a total makeover. With ready to install feature, it is exactly what you are looking for. One can place these Garden Screens in their patio, just at the entrance or at their deck space. Being a user-friendly product, it allows clients to involve in DIY (Do It Yourself) projects only to enhance the beauty of their backyard.

Products Designs

Some of its product designs popular among the masses are Marakesh, Mahjong, Leafstream, Star Anais, Daintree and Orient. These are creations, which can meet your geometric, classic, and blockout design needs.  With adorning properties, it also fulfils a plethora of other application requirements.

picture of multiple outdeco privacy panels


Closing Thoughts

Even though Exotic Pebbles and Glass offer a wide range of products such as decorative pebbles, landscape glass, fire pit accessories, OUTDECO’s Garden Screen is by far the best. The organic fibre content of the outdoor screen is appropriate not only for your garden but also for the world. The architectural designs with intricate decorations have most probably enthralled the critics.

backlight privacy panel

The specialities of OUTDECO’s product, as listed down in the blog, has generated strong responses and account for its overall success. It had always planned to launch its product in the North American market, which has now met with a roaring success. It has proved its capabilities to the building industry, which is well evident from the recognition that it achieved at the International Builders Show.

FIRE PIT RING: BEST FIRE RINGS 2017 BUYER’S GUIDE

box, wood, minimalist, fire

Fire pit rings, when to use and which one? To sum up this article, always use h frame burners for your fire feature, whenever possible. Why, how and how big? Well read on and find out.

Check out our full collection of fire pit accessories here.
A week ago I helped a client refine his back yard, a small pergola, a rocky spring, some flagstone on rubber mulch bedding. Classic stuff until it came to the background fire features. In wall burners over some dark burgundy fire glass. And the client was surprised by my choice in burners. He just used fire pit rings until then, because the fire was always a round centerpiece. This means fire pit rings made the most sense.

The second issue was the size. I got the big 30 incher.
I always go for the biggest possible because we rarely work with hard reflexive surfaces and we use fires as radiant assets even when in the background. And he had a small yard, small for anything outside of a city, so there are some exceptions when space is limited. Anyway, despite his doubts, the set up was perfect, the extra length of the fire. Spread a wide beam of light onto the area, casting soft shadows that wrapped around everything.

I could have put it a bit higher to be honest because the walls around it allowed for some more volume to play with. But’ volume is another story I’ll cover in a whole post. Until then you can read eco glass,  small yards and patio guide about how patio furniture and separators change our perception of available space, but those were more about creating more visible space and this was about using more space, lighting it up and using higher elements to bring it all down to the garden.

GAS FIRES AND FIRE PIT RINGS

Fire features come in a wide variety: fireplaces, fire pits or table fires. And for most of them, we use gas burners because they are cleaner, safer and more versatile. Among the range of burners, you will find a wide variety but they fall under linear or round fire pit rings. All other variations are either designer one-offs that you buy from a manufacturer to fit a very specific scene. Or are manufacturer specific proprietary designs made to sell you the same thing at a higher price or sometimes less in terms of build quality and materials used.
For all but the most niche of designs, you will either use a round flame or a linear flame and that can be done by these 2 types of burners. A last note on other proprietary designs, you will see some linear burners that all this guide can apply to, but won’t in practice unless you use 2 side by side. A single line of flame lacks enough volume to create a visual impact. It ends up looking like a burning leaves or kindle instead of a roaring log fire.

You will see in the examples bellow. Also, some of those linear gas elements are really fragile and I don’t like fragile when dealing with fire. Always check for a warranty and look around for the manufacturer’s reputation. So keep in mind that all the linear fires can and should be replaced with shorter, wider fires as a general rule.

FIRE PIT RINGS BY SHAPE

orange, patio, enclosedBut back on track with the do’s instead of the don’t’s. We think of the landscaping environment in terms of scenes and frames of view. We are deconstructing the design in 2D pictures that we can see at any given time. That’s the human limitation, expanded 3D with depth only conceptually we compose a 3D environment in our heads. I want you to try this next time you see a movie, especially a good one. Think of what the camera is showing you, and why it isn’t showing you something else, a close up on someone’s face or a wide angle showing their whole body going from one part to the other.

Art is about not showing more than showing. By not showing you allow the viewer to concentrate on what’s left instead of processing everything. So in terms of gas burners, that means that all fires, only have 2 dimensions at any given time and depth becomes irrelevant after 6 to 10 inches. That means you have only height and with to really play with. Situationally you want to use height and create a large unified fire, that’s when you use fire pit rings, and always the biggest one you can fit. In all other cases, you go with a H burner and think of it as a light source first then as a stand alone feature.

FIRE PIT RING SIZE

Size is a little more complicated because we are dealing with it as a light source rather than a feature inches does not always correlate with effect. You can find a technical guide. Technical aspects aside, let’s assume you can make the space for the fire from scratch, any size you want, what size should you make it?
Well, the short answer as I said it as big as you can make it, within limits. Around 28 inches, above that it’s situational and think about using 2 smaller elements for a more 3D effect. Shaping the light around elements and having softer shadows. That’s why pop-up flashes on cameras make for hard features and bad pictures. There is only one source of light so every shape and contour gets a dark shadow wrapped around it. This makes everything but the most naturally gorgeous men look angular and distorted. But it does wonders if you have an edge chiseled jaw and diamond cheekbones.

large, fire, small, yard
Vanity mirror lighting has the opposite effect, a lot of light sources reduce shadows almost completely. The shadow cast by each light gets lit by the other lights that are at a slightly different angle. This softens features and especially pores. It’s like electrical real life photoshop. Same thing happens with side lighting or wall to wall lights. You get a soft glow all around the garden giving it warmth hue instead of lighting it up.

Obviously, there are stylistic caveats. Use single lights when you want that darker jungle-feel you get from the shadows of each large leaf. And you want to have a dark area. This works extremely well in combination with vertical water features as the sound gets amplified by the darkness. The glimmer and movement of the water really brings tension to a dark scene. Something most people ignore when the light up their waterfall.

WHEN TO GO SMALL WITH FIRE PIT RINGS

Usually, the simplest gas fire pit are in table fire pits. You need a table anyway and adding another element just for the fire doesn’t look good. Here is where you use the small 12-inch burner. At this size, it doesn’t matter if you use a fire pit ring or h burner, and it’s a matter of personal tastes. For classical traditional uses go for a fire pit ring, the round fire also is more versatile being more of a “classic fire”. Most no fuss timid tables or fire bowls are round so in that case, it does works slightly better.

modern, stairs, fire
I say only slightly because a flame is fluid, it will not only follow any objects in its path flowing over them grabbing their shape, but it will also bunch up and end in a conical peak. The differences are negligible, so just go with the fire pit ring. In this particular case, the most important thing is: how small can you get it.

It’s gonna be right in the line of sight of people at night and as mesmerizing as a fireplace can be, that’s just tiresome. Because it’s this obvious, go very restrained. I prefer lava rock as a rule of thumb. It’s non-reflexive and the broodiness of it makes it a great counterpoint to the lively fire.

In larger scenes feel free to include them in empty bland spots as light sources that add a warm glow all around. Small fires are excellent as permanent candles. Consider a large element that has layers to it, like a fake wall. Building fireplaces inside it creates the illusion of a living entity like the concrete had a roaring fire in it all along.

Corners on minimalist clean spaces are also very vulnerable to looking empty and neglected. A small fire or a downscale version of that like a lamp post with a hanging lantern should cover the space and make it a source of vibrancy instead of a black hole. When using small fire assets be careful of their background, especially if it’s a broody dark gray minimalist scene. The fire will look accidental, underwhelming in small sizes. And larger fires are out of the question because they would spoil the mood. Add some glimmer either dark tonal but shiny fire glass or light pale but matte.

WHEN TO GO ROUND AND USE FIRE PIT RINGS

This is debatable, but usually in the ground fire pits work better with large fire pit rings. Looking down at the fire, you can clearly see the edges of an H burner fire, so if you are looking down at the fire, always use a fire pit ring if you want to maintain that feeling of a round natural fire. And an important note, the correlation of round fire pit and round fire works both ways. That’s why you usually do round fire pits anywhere down low to the ground. I’m talking about classic settings of course because you can have some designer modern features like a fire row or long fire pit, which not only doesn’t try to look like a round fire but is intentionally linear and acts as a shape in the grand design.
Another situation would be if you have intentionally circular seating all around the fire. Like 4 semi-circular seats with gaps around it. There’s a lot of reasons why you should never completely surround an element and open the space up so it can breathe, but I’ve covered that here. If you do want to keep it closed down for the privacy effect or to make it feel more intimate and isolated then that’s one case where a fire rig is a must, and I recommend a really large one as looking down at the fire makes it feel smaller relatively to your position.

picture of fire pit ring brick fire pit

WHEN TO GO LONG?

Long flames are probably the only ones worth going custom if you want flames longer than 40 or 50 inches. But even then, I would think of a double solution. That flame is going to be very large and it will turn night into day, ruining the atmospheric vibe you usually get from a fire lit area. Long flames are usually thin and underwhelming or very large and bright. It takes a lot of tweaking over different seasons for even me to get this right. It’s a real balancing act and unless you really want that long continuous line of fire, never try this. You have enough things to maintain and manage as it is in a garden. Features and centerpieces should not be one of them.

picture of a long exotic pebbles fire glass fire pit

Now unlike real life landscaping, the design industry from photographers to editors love these and you will see them on a lot of shoots. They just look so good in pictures, that oblique long line of fire frozen in time just gives moment and vibe to a scene. But keep in mind that you can and more likely should deconstruct the picture and downscale it to fit your needs. And a 30-inch H burner is usually more than you need because you will never be understated while they very rarely underperform.

long, gray, fire, patioIn fact, I am willing to guarantee that your yard is so large that a 30-inch is too small, you are not doing your own design and have hired a professional designer to do it for you. And sells you on something long and weak that would look great in their portfolio.
Before you ok that, Consider a row of candles, because it’s a very strong element that you can’t see how well it will work before it’s actually in place. A variation is the discontinued line of small fires. Or in the case of a wall to wall in wall fire, there is an even better variation. Having the wall segmented and 5 to 7 smaller fires spread around at different heights and but at the same distance from one another.

I give you that a horizontal wall break is a great looking was to break the monotony of the wall and the light coming from a long fiery line is very cool and atmospheric. But this “patched up” design does all that and is unique and interesting. The whole wall becomes a feature and a mild light source for the rest of the scene. If your wall happens to be out of natural stone, the “stochastic design” works exponentially better than just a simple line.

H BURNERS

Now that we covered the exceptions let’s sink into the H burner. Essentially, it is an H frame trough which natural gas or propane flows, creating 2 long lines that have nozzles where the gas can burn out off. This creates two walls of flame for a thick flame and a lot of character with the strong edges. Left alone, it’s harsh and looks industrial at best. But if you cover it with just some fire glass and shape the flames, giving them something to bounce off of, it comes into its own.

Always go for the 30 inch. And make everything else adapt. Whether it’s a fire bowl or a fireplace. You can’t be subtle about it. You have a fire feature, show it off and make everything else a visual accessory. As for fireplaces specifically, use large faux logs or other hard large glass to give it enough personality to stand on its own against the hardscape of the fireplace. A small flame inside a granite fireplace is just, depressing.
Now, back to fire pits, where the H burners shine. In most tables, bowls and or stations, the H burner will create a larger visible fire, even with a smaller installation. It’s literally the biggest effect with the smallest space investment. Think of that linear fire I talked about above. Segmenting the pit into 4 elements and nestling 4 h burners would have given you a thicker flame, constantly and with no hassle and I would argue that over that length some segmentation would have made the table more interesting.
I’ll give you that it wouldn’t be as stunning. But that length is not used well, so the impression goes out fast, leaving you with a underwhelming but very expensive fire feature. The alternative is to save money and use creativity to get the same impact, but make it sustainable, both in terms of costs and maintenance.

stone, fire, burner, prehistoricFor example, Use a very roughed concrete rectangular bowl. As gritty as possible. Age it with stain and fill it up with lava rock. Use 1 or 2 H burners, depending on how long the stone bowl is. The thick primitive flame coming out of the rock will make an outstanding impression and even the blandest of scenes will turn into a eye-catching scene. That’s why I love concrete so much, it’s cheap and so versatile that your imagination is the only limit. But back to my point, tell me that isn’t impressive and it doesn’t stay with you. The fire feels alive, coming for you. And this is scalable. Apply the rule of threes and use 3 of them. You created a whole theme.
You can go the other way, into the future, still with concrete, create an angular layered table, with asymmetrical features. Stain the dried concrete with coal and give it a gray metal feel and maybe even add a glossy sealant. Cover the H burner with some light fire glass for a futuristic counterpoint or dark glass for a darker look and fewer highlights. Use a granite countertop for a more expensive upgraded version. A version that will fit in any modern broody setting and will give more character than the simple longer is a better gimmick.

dark, modern, fire, glassA more low-key version of that same effect can be achieved just by keeping the table as simple as possible. Use the single slab trick. One solid slab of perfectly symmetrical concrete placed around a layered, complex area. This simple concrete slab works because it creates a solid foundation from which both it’s flame and the fire glass under those flames and the area surrounding it can dance around visually around it. First the rest of the setting, it’s a small space, complex tones and there’s a lot of background stuff. The scene is layered and you have both layered decks and a stone pit. That’s a lot for just one corner. But you anchor it all around the central slab at a macro level. The simple shape calms everything down and gives focus.
stone, concrete, gray, monolith, fireOn a micro level, the same thing happens with the fire. Again it’s slim and long but look at the great contrast between hard surface, rough glass, and liquid flames. That’s an exquisite piece right there. 3 textures in one asset fused perfectly together. Here you see the playful ness of the designer in how they play with texture and create interesting spins on simple minimalist features. After that, you notice the pillow on the bland couch or the natural shrub in the simple clean gray planter. Even the deck and rocks make sense now because we understand the cheeky intent in bringing a twist to pure fundamentals.

box, wood, minimalist, fireTurning that on its head we have this brown burning box. Wood with modern shapes in a modern light minimal patio. The stones inside it make it busy and heavy.
Too much personality and individualism compared to the rest of the scene that has simple clean assets. But then you light it up. The flame adds another dimension, the table isn’t just furniture, it’s an event. It’s a dancer that infuses the clinical scene with life and vibrancy. Under the warm light, busy fire table and minimalist patio fuse and complement each other. Warmth spilling over and surprisingly it calms down the features of the table. The dark stones make sense as a source for the primeval fire, while the modern wood-like look of the table becomes a modern holster for the primeval stones and fire, it makes sense it’s not as abstract as everything else.

 

H BURNER FIREPLACES

The bigger brother to the fire table is the fireplace. And here the H burner is king. Because you only see it from its broad side all the softer edges of the fire ring are negated. All you see when you look at a fireplace is depth and length. Both main advantages of the H burner. An H burners with makes the fire seem solid tangible and powerful. And withing the confines of a fireplace you get to focus all that energy. Here things are simplest, natural strong elements. It’s not a design element its cauldron encasing one of the nature’s forces. I’ve made a whole post about fireplaces, so check it out for a more detailed break down.marble, fireplace, candles

Another particular feature of the fireplace is that it’s unidirectional. So the light you would get from an open fire of the same size is usually cut by 2 thirds or more. This means you get that great moving firecrest with minimal light spillage. This makes it usable in both party patios and on chilly summer nights. The lack of light spill also means this is a great way to get cozy intimate settings with a fire feature apart from 40+ candles. Spread all around your romantic scene. Or why not use both?

FIERY HORIZONS

The next level is scenic fire. Using fire as an interesting frame trough which the people inside the scene see the view, the garden or landscape. This is very hard to pull off and sometimes in more dynamic spaces, not worth it. Think of a terrace where the lights of the city are barely flickering.

A large bright fire just blinds you. But when you do it just right, when you get that combination of a side view, small linear fire and the secondary light opposite of the fire. The view is magical. The effect hypnotizing. It’s obviously very situational and if you can’t pull it off, don’t worry, you don’t need to move to Monaco. Next, I’ll show you how to get a permanent effect on a smaller budget. Well, small compared to going to Monaco.

But before that let’s learn something from the scene.

view, intimate, fireThe fire while strong doesn’t overshadow the scene, the city is close by and the patio is well lit. The furniture takes a back seat to the fire and landscape. This makes the fire and the landscape the highlights of the scene, but they don’t compete.

They both take a back seat to the function of the area. It’s a small area, so the designer used intimacy as a feature and designed the area to be an intimate setting for 2 people, crushing the attention seeking landscape and lively fire. Thus, relegated to secondary features the landscape and the fiery frame has no choice but to work together and assist the environment in its human-centered function.

This is excellent example of function crushing obvious highlights. The landscape is still there. The fire just makes it even more “loud”. But instead of just giving us the obvious, the designer made it submit to the purpose of the location and complement it graciously.

FIERY COUNTERPOINTS

waterfall, fire, view, poolThis has been used a lot, and not to its full potential. Similarly to the previous tableau we had. The pool is a functional space. Nothing you put around can take that away from it. So going overboard with a large fire, you just add to it aesthetically. If you happen to have a view right next to it.

We’ll you got yourself one of the best designs out there. And obviously I could not mention the waterfall, always have a waterfall. It’s like fire in reverse. It falls where fire rises, it splashes where a fire crackles. It’s an elemental in motion. Adding movement and life to something still and practical. Dry and solid become natural and rich just by running water over them.
Now, something I want everyone to notice is that the materials used aren’t anything to break the bank for. The richness comes from the scenery and the bold design choices. The fire is a thing and only hinting at flame edges under the scenery.

hot, tub, fireBut I can see this is intentional, there’s not a lot of light on this side of the back yard. So instead of filling it in with lights and having a larger fire, they made the fire smaller. I would make it full strength and put a lip around it so only the glow of the tips of the flames actually light the pool directly. And maybe put some greenery behind it to reflect the light and add depth and movement during the night. But then you risk it competing with the view.

Another opulent counterpoint that is more accessible would be the spa fireplace. This is what I was talking about before. From the jacuzzi only the lip of the fire is visible. And because of it’s open back most of the light falls softly onto the canopy behind. Creating dancing movements and shadows in the night, without making a day out of the night for the people in the yard. For this example, I would have clearly place larger H burners behind the wall and maybe slot them into it in a more traditional fireplace style keeping the open back. This would have allowed me to have more control over what comes into the garden, as we’ve covered with the advantages of how directional fireplace light is and I would have kept the “dancing background.”

Outdoor Privacy Screens – 2017 Guide

backlight privacy panel

 

SUBTRACTIVE DESIGN

I’ve been talking a lot lately about outdoor privacy screens and I think it’s about time I write a post specifically about them. I love them. I think obstructionist elements are a godsend both from a financial point of view and a design standpoint.

Shop Our Outdoor Privacy Panels Here

Let’s be honest, changing landscaping elements and features are expensive and sometimes impossible as some things simply can’t change any other way than selling the house and finding one with a better garden. That being said this post will be a little different. Unlike other elements, outdoor privacy panels are subtractive elements, not additive. We will be talking about what they add to a garden in part 2. But first, let’s talk about subtraction and the difference between creating a concept and following rules.

outdoor garden panel bench

When we construct something we add elements one on top of another, we do this with colors, perspective, or shapes. There are some things that trough experience we see are visually pleasing and others that are not. So it follows that to get something pleasing we just not do what isn’t. Creating an outdoor privacy panels design goes further. Just adding elements or textures is not enough.

We also need to subtract, to remove certain features so that people who view our work only see what we intended them to see. This requires you to consider the effect and goes beyond just following rules. You need to visualize the consequences and the possible variations that can occur. For example during winter, late summer evening sunsets or spring surprises. If you are a long time reader of this blog you know I already prepared you to think of your scenes as real life tableaus that people are seeing and living in instead of just a set of does and don’ts.
Essentially, I push you to think about design as a viewing experience, more movie than anything else. In doing so you have to not only show but also hide what you don’t want to show, what may be distracting or irrelevant. The stronger the elements you use, the more you need to clean up and remove distractions. This is the peril of over design, and just throwing element after element into a yard.

Elements that could very well be nice on their own or even work as 2 or 3 within a theme, but then you get 7 or more things in a single space and the eye can’t focus, it starts to look like an art gallery instead of a place for people to meet and get together.

OUTDOOR PRIVACY PANELS

If we think of visual impact as a doodle and subtractive design is an eraser that allows us to correct or improve your stretch. The most used trick is obstruction of view or hiding things. Whether it’s yourself in a gazebo, the sun, a run down wall or a sloped garden corner. The trick is to think of removing x element of the feature as actually being a plus and something that adds to your yard.

Try this experiment, look at your yard and ask yourself what would you remove, and then think about ways to at least remove it visually. Coverings are the easy go to.

Alternatively, you can distract or integrate the issue into a bigger feature. For example, as you will see in a moment, the strong blinding sun can be turned into patterned lighting or a boring white stucco wall can become an amazing indirect light source if lit from beneath and covered by a screen.
For general information about privacy, check out this link. I’m only going to cover design arguments for outdoor privacy panels. Garden screens usually have a privacy rating between 60% and 90%. Privacy panels limit visibility from one side to another. So it goes from saying about half of what you would normally see to just one tenth which is a massive difference even if the numbers look close.
In this sense privacy or the subtraction of view from the outside in. this creates intimacy and relaxes the subjects confined in the scene.

Even with semi-transparent panels can make this work if there is more light on the outside than on the inside. This means that you can get the intimacy without the isolating effect of more closed off features.

 

privacy screen

 

The effect is multiplied with less transparent panels. But it comes at a cost of openness and light. Don’t use panels with more than 60% privacy to close up a small space. But if you have small spaces, you should only segment or shield never close off a section of it entirely. Segmenting is layering an obstruction in between the background and the viewer. This adds volumetric complexity and stimulates the imagination. Shielding an area cuts it off partially from the main area and creates a strong differentiation that enables both visual load and thematic complexity.

For example enabling a playground without making it feel like a place you just store away your kids when you don’t need them. This is also a great illustration of creating by removing. By cutting the link between the area and the rest of the garden, you can make it more cheerful and release it from the thematic restrictions of the main area.

 

privacy panel deck

 

 

CARVING SPACE WITH OUTDOOR PRIVACY PRIVACY PANELS

The other side of segmentation, this time viewed from behind the panel is sculpting space. Outdoor privacy panels remove limits, corners. They can create a concave decorative wall instead of the rectangular end of a yard, shape a path out of an alleyway and create layers out of the vertical face of a house.

 

Privacy screen alley

 

 

This is an interesting subject for me personally, I dislike mazes. But they are the kings of carving a shaping space. They cut off the individual from the yard and force a close and intentional focus on the immediate space. This can become tedious in my opinion over long stretches of time, but that’s why I see garden screens as an upgrade. They do the same thing, cut off view and force a limited perspective but they release it quickly. With a screen, it’s very hard to isolate and confine. It feels light and only suggests isolation instead of promising it.

This is a super daring example of carving up space. You could have made it a simple boring path in between less than flattering walls, but instead, the designer made the path at an angle. The flagstone is making it clear both that this is the start of n adventure and that things will be anything but boring as you can see with the random distribution of stones and the diagonal white path.
Furthermore, to make sure everyone walk that path to adventure, the designer purposefully blocked off one face of the entry, forcing people to come from the side. This has two effects: First, it slows them down as they need to turn and can’t rush past the design. And two, it surprises and makes them look around and be seduced by the light flagstone steps that are yelling: come on a whimsical adventure. Take note that these are the only two elements that were used, the rest is just the environment.

PAINTING WITH LIGHT

 

bamboo, light, panel

 

This is especially true with the heavier Arabic themed panels but true to an extent with all of them. The subtract light and funnel it into an area in colorful beams of light that cast a glowing pattern of light over the area behind them. This is the second most common use I have for outdoor privacy panels. Light is essentially the fundamental element of visual arts, everything we make gets created with light. This is a lot more profound than you might think.

Take this bamboo, within this light, it would be dark and crowded at best especially in front of a dark brown wall. But look at how underlighting can transform a backyard. It creates separation, space, contrast. It opens up the short space between planter and wall and brings vibrancy into what would be really pale color tones in any other form of light.

It’s a lot of work, but consider what type of light and what temperature it has when it falls onto your elements. Everything looks good during the golden hour when all the magazine pics are take. The challenge is to make your garden look good even in the mid-summer noon sun or the gray overcast of a January morning.

Similarly, to that trick, you can replace the bamboo with a garden screen and get space and funneled indirect light. The hint of space is seductive and creates the illusion of a continuation of space because we associate light with volume. We want to believe that there’s more behind the garden sheer than we have access to. Our brain thinks that this side of the wall, the darker side is actually smaller than what lies behind it.

backlight privacy panel

 

As you can see the outdoor privacy panels effect is stunning and considering the price, I am astounded that nobody does this trick especially when they are on a budget of have space restraints. Use an indirect correlation between the intensity of the reflection that is determined by the intensity of the light, the reflective properties of the wall is and the privacy rating of the garden screen.

Use a darker wall for more the illusion of space like in the case of the bamboo with more powerful lights and lower intimacy ratings to maximize the impression of space like in the case of the bamboo. Or a brighter wall to use it as a light source, in which case the intimacy rating serves to make it more or less atmospheric. But more on this later when we’ll cover oriental style garden screens.

GARDEN SCREENS AS A MODULAR, CHEAP LIGHT SOURCE

Consider the use of shade to limit detail and clutter or creating highlights with light over what is a flat feature. Light can become much more than a utility it can be a feature, a tool or the centerpiece itself. Sometimes you just have too much light and you don’t want to make a day out of night, so you just tease the scene with light. Works great with large open rooftops or yards, where you can afford some shielding and still maintain a view.

indirect light garden screen

 

A secondary way you can play with the light I covered here, this is technically a using it for its visual appeal more than subtractive properties but I think we should get rid of this tip while we’re talking about light. Some scenes are small enough that any form of direct light in the night time is either too little or too much. That’s why I prefer reflexive light.

Light going up a vertical surface, lighting it up and making it light up the area in the term. For this, you can basically use any surface but I found the modularity of the panels and their low costs to work very well and enables me to get creative with where I position them.

To keep the glimmer to a minimum I use dark matte panels with a very low 60% privacy coefficient. I just need them to catch some light, and nothing more. And the best part, garden screens set up like this as light sources are cheap, light and portable. You can arrange them in any configuration anywhere across your garden and they become a feature, a light feature that is both functional and beautiful.

 

FAKE WALLS

The last tip relies heavily on the outdoor garden panel to be visually pleasing. So another obvious feature of garden screens is their visual appeal And how to use them as surfaces. The first way and the most common use I have for them are doubling down on the walls.

 

wall cover outdoor panel

 

Face it, unless you have a Dutch painting on the wall or an original Banksy walls are boring. The expensive alternative is covering with hardscape.

The cheap and easy one is to fix some low privacy paneling over them. Letting a gap in between them and creating a second skin like appearance over them. For added designer points, combine my previous point, add some lights in between the wall and the panel, and make the wall a pale source of diffused light radiating through the outdoor privacy panels.

 

living wall

 

A secondary option, this one being the most common used by most designers is to use them as a backdrop for plants and foliage. To be fair a green wall is a great alternative to most planters and it also looks slimmer, lighter and more modular. This time you use however outdoor privacy panels with a high intimacy index and use them as a wall.

I would like to note that while segmenting a small urban yard with green walls is a great way to kill 2 birds with one stone, as I wrote about here. It’s very easy to make a green wall crowded so use restraint when handling extremely small spaces.

VISUAL APPEAL OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF PRIVACY SCREENS

I mostly use three themes for the outdoor privacy panels, but you will find a lot of overlap and variations on the design. But functionally there are geometric, organic and oriental. The first focuses on patterns created by hard bold lines and familiar geometrical shapes.

The second emulate the shapes and lines of nature and appeal to our more decorative sensibilities and the latter focuses on funneling light trough small openings and combine the geometrical patterns of the first with the soft lines of the second.

 

canopy light
Very rarely you can do both and create projections of organic lines. The finishing looks blotchy, and it looks like you tried to get the canopy feel but you messed it up. IN this case, it works, and it’s a very bold move. The reason it works is because space is white and bland and every splotch of light becomes shiny and decorative. There’s no conflicting elements or material distractions, it’s just a white canvas painted with light.

GEOMETRIC OUTDOOR PRIVACY PANELS

This is generally great as a base fake wall, or background. The simple shapes of the outdoor privacy panels don’t really do anything special with the light unless you put some fabric over it, but at that point, you turn it into something you always need to adjust.
A gimmick more than a feature. So how do you grade geometrical patterns? It’s all about how hypnotic the patterns is. The wall needs to be less of a wall and more of a background band supporting the lead singer in front. Either with a steady baseline like in the case of this Herringbone pattern that offers a base support for the bench without closing off the patio completely from the outside.

 

outdoor garden panel bench

 

Or with something more seductive like a jazz band groove, like in the case of this Mahjong fence. For me, it’s a no-brainer and the Mahjong tiles are just enthralling in their alternating pattern. Notice that everything else is more than predictable and not particularly interesting but the whole scene is still mesmerizing because the screen’s 60% privacy is enough to suggest bait your curiosity of what may be behind it.

You don’t loose space, you make it more interesting and it excites you. This is an amazing example of elegance and restraint being as interesting in the details as whole other centerpieces.

 

privacy panel fence

 

A good takeaway would also be that the lighter 60% Mahjong is more impressive and vibrant than the 80% Herringbone, despite the fact that the Herringbone has a zig-zag pattern. The light colored negative space more than compensates for the rectangular static lines.

This is usually the rule until it’s not anymore. Bellow, you can see the 90% Cumulus pattern. Technically based on circles so it is geometrical. But look at the tension of all those broken circles, it’s like a slow-motion explosion.
I chose this picture especially so you can see the difference between white and dark negative space within great patterns. You can see that the dark grooves provide a restrained pattern, the design and the tension in the shapes do the heavy lifting.

But when exposed to backlight like in the top right, the negative space explodes and comes alive with light. Cumulus is an amazing pattern and you can see here it’s versatility both at providing an interesting background and funneling light.

 

paneling garden

 

 

DECORATIVE GARDEN SCREENS

Decorative screens have a less structured patterned. They try to feel warmer, more natural and in doing so they offer a great organic feel that allows them to be integrated into an older less modern garden easier. As a start-up example, look at the 60% Leafstream.

The shapes pull your eyes like the waves of a fire. The dynamic patterns are very fluid and I wouldn’t use it as pure background. But for hinting at the space behind it or inducing movement in the eyes of the viewer it’s an excellent choice.

 

privacy screen

 

This open transparent look makes it ideal for playfully obstructing view without closing up and reducing space one bit. This is a favorite for small yards where you lack a lot of light because these outdoor privacy panels has almost no obstruction. Speaking of light, this is ideal for creating faux walls and use in between lighting because of it’s low opacity rating and playful vibrant curves.
This design does come however with some limitations and I would say you to really think about it before using it because it’s not all that restrained, and subtle so it will clash with some dry abstract themes. So let’s get on to some patterns that are less of a hassle to match and are more versatile.

THE PACIFIC ISLANDER OUTDOOR SCREEN

Daintree is inspired by pacific rainforests. It’s wavy and less linear, but comes with an 80% block out rate, making it suitable both as decorative outdoor privacy panels and as a background. The large openings also leave enough of a view for the eye to grasp the space behind it.

Making it a great option for wall coverages. Just keep in mind the limitation of the 80% rate. This doesn’t work as a light screen for background wall light to reflect trough it and it doesn’t really hide any rubbish or bad finishings all that well.

 

garden screen background

 

But what it lacks in practicality it gains in personality, especially over small spaces. This is a outdoor garden panel that can stand on its own whether inside or outside, like an abstract piece of rainforest. For best uses pair it with modern clean cut elements that need some softening up.

Works well with modern wood, concrete, and glass as long as they are not very clean. Consider this as a good option for segmentation and teasing privacy. A very good all-rounder you can get, play and experiment with.

 

indoor privacy panel

 

Where Daintree is weaker, bungalow picks up the slack. This is a Leafstream with 80% coverage and perpendicular elements. This is a building panel. The small nerves give it stability and allow the patterns to join up and be used for covering large surfaces.

And as a secondary use, you can play with it under artificial light, whether by reflecting it on it, from bellow or on the wall behind it. The linear elements also make it less contrasty with the straight modern design.

But That comes at a cost as it doesn’t pair as well with organic features as the previous 2 decorative patterns.

 

panelsing vertical gardens

 

And now for the piece of resistance, the brand new Wooloomai 80%, this has however so much block out and the spacing is so small think of it as an 85%.

It could be considered oriental in how well it funnels light but the curvy lines indicative of old medieval Japanese abstract representations of the sea makes it 2 tiers more decorative than any geometric based pattern you can find in any other oriental screens.

 

outdoor privacy panel garden screen

 

So what can it do? These outdoor privacy panels can cover, they can provide some very subtle background. Very restraint and feminine cover for any rubbish or boring walls. Nothing special, until you add light to it, behind it or in front of it.

The small wave lines funnel light beautifully so whether you’re funneling the sun or indirect light coming off a back wall, you will activate all those wave lines and infuse your sitting area with a unique mood that is hard to describe even for me.

If you used oriental screens before, it’s something similar but more decorative, playful in the patterns of light cast.

 

garden screen white
Another fantastic feature is how well the negative space looks when you turn it into a light-colored feature, the dark openings look like a tridimensional organic mural that just grab your gaze over and over again with their sensual dance.

Oriental outdoor privacy panels

First one, and the most versatile is Marrakesh. It works as background and because the patterns are very small and restrained on oriental screens you can easily pair them with both modern and classical design. This pattern is especially old and has a medieval hint to it so any old world to the colonial theme can work. But more importantly, this is a great light funnel for those just starting out.

Try it out, get one. Find a low, morning of the evening sun, and obstruct it’s light with one of these.

The area behind the panel will light up and the pattern projected by the funneled rays will create dreamy golden patterns that will imbibe the patio or deck with that 1001 Arabian nights mood, regardless of what your theme was before hand. That’s how powerful light can be.

 

garden panel
And if you decide these outdoor privacy panels are not for you, you still get a decent background panel for your plants or your favorite planter.

If however, you do fall in love with the Arabian light, step up your game with The orient screen.
This is a 90% block-out screen, that is all about that middle eastern vibe. It’s sold as a surface cover and feature, but don’t listen to them. The real magic happens when the light goes trough it. The small pin holes and dashes cast some very refined lights that instantly give any scene that Arabian bazaar feel, but without the smell of camels.
I know it sounds, niche, and it very much is. You need a wide area to use it in and you can only take advantage of it for maybe an hour or more on certain days when you have that strong low hanging sun and no overcast. But it’s a spectacular effect and considering that it comes dirt cheap, it’s probably the best thing you can do for the money, the alternative would be to actually set up a natural stone wall waterfall or a pool grotto. It’s that powerful.

And lastly but far from the least impressive are the Star Anais outdoor privacy panels. These are probably the best panels for getting creative with. Technically it’s a 90% geometrical pattern, but it looks excellent with everything. It has an oriental vibe, it blocks light both sunlight and wall reflection but you can also use it as a light source for indirect light.

It can hide spaces and at the same time depending on how much light you have behind it, it can show spaces because the openings are really long and allow for really good glimpses at the shapes behind it if they are properly lit.

 

garden screen planter

 

So why do you need anything else if it does everything really well? Well, it’s the pattern. It takes some time to get it, and really appreciate it’s beauty. A decorative outdoor privacy panel or even a hypnotic mahjong you instantly resonate with. And 2 or more panels like the Leafstream and Wooloomai just blend in together. These not so much, as they are made to work as individual panels.

But on the other hand, the pattern is such an amazing blend of geometric and natural that it goes both with modern and natural like nothing else and as you can see, it can span the visual gap between a flat gray wall and some lively greens better than anything else you can use. So if you know what you’re doing you should definitely skip everything else and get Some Star Anais pannels and play with them exclusively.

shop privacy panels

Eco Glass: ECO-FRIENDLY Fire Glass & Landscaping Glass 2017 Guide

picture of small turquoise fire glass

At Exotic Pebbles and Glass we’re big on Eco Friendly products!

This week I’m going green I’ll tell you why eco glass is more environmentally friendly than organic mulch and give you the ultimate run down on sustainable landscaping.

Why you should get rid of your patio and replace it with a tree. And when you should spend money on new ecologically sustainable landscaping and when you can just improvise a better solution by yourself. After my post about 2017 design directions, some people were caught by surprise, by the ecological direction. Aesthetic took a back seat, and now design follows a new direction.
Sustainable design is all well and good, but, homesteading? Synthetic turfs? That’s pushing it, to say the least. But in this post, I’ll go further and show you that good design isn’t necessarily design that sticks to the basics, but rather it’s the application of creativity to solve problems. Beyond the regular eco-warrior tips and some basic principles, I’m going to reimagine the modern yard. A blend of organic and synthetic fused together to both please and protect.

picture of small cobalt blue fire glass

Cobalt Small 1/4 Inch – 1/2 Inch

There’s only so many ways you can make a lawn look fresh and exciting. But an above ground aquarium? A flowerbed filled with exotic weeds. Now, we’re playing with some new elements, and I see no reason why we should cower away and not use these new features, even if we don’t get 100% sustainability, it’s still going to be an improvement, and we got to play with some new design elements in the process.

SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE DESIGN PRINCIPLES

The basic principles of sustainability are minimizing resource needs and making the best out of the waste and byproducts of your garden. First, let’s consider what we input into our landscaping, first of all, materials. We try to use biodegradable elements, like wood, mulch, paper or cardboard or permanent materials that don’t degrade but also don’t pollute because they have a very long lifespan and when we do throw them away and recycle the raw matter: nonreactive plastic, corrugated metal, fireglass.

Gorgeous Fire Glass for fire pit

We’re going with the first ones usually when their production doesn’t actually create any environmental externalities, let’s say a homestead in the woods. Even a village can not consume enough wood to endanger the forest unless it’s a logging community and the cut-down wood for the entire Pacific Nord West. This is why I prefer the later. And I think modern manufacturing, with products that degrade in less than a year, is more harmful than 6 decades ago when you basically had bought everything you would even own by the age of 24.

Eco glass mulch

Here’s where it gets controversial. Eco Glass or landscaping glass is this type of perennial material. There is an argument that can be made for mulch as a land cover. It locks in humidity, it protects the top layer of soil from direct sun, and it decomposes releasing nutrients over time into the ground. It’s an excellent choice, but considering you need to replace it seasonally, I don’t think it’s a sustainable option in the global sense. All those bags of mulch need to be produced, processed, wrapped and transported in a neverending cycle. Sure, even if you produce biomass with it, and the only waste is the plastic bags it comes it still produces more waste byproducts than the equivalent of landscaping glass or better said eco glass. And don’t get me started on its looks, it makes gravel look appealing.

Check out our guide on backyard landscapes here!

RESOURCES

Another input consideration is water and fertilizer. Water is a significant’ issue, and I will be addressing it all across this post. It’s too important just to list out our abuse in use and how we waste it. For now, let’s talk fertilizer. Ideally, you want to try to get away with as little phosphorus, and nitrogen seeping into the ground or wash off getting in the sewers. Meter your ground, find out what it needs and give it just enough to not “burn it.” You can’t go in blindly, you need to know what is going on inside the ground.

picture of ocean blue landscape glass in a planter

Landscaping glass is a great compliment to rocks and pebbles.

The second step, manage your plants carefully, pick hardy grasses and flowers and plants that don’t attract pests. To prevent further weed growth, install a permanent weed barrier made out of non-reactive plastic, or some more biodegradable weed barriers like cardboard. I prefer the biodegradable option here because it’s just more versatile. Easy to readjust and adapt if you get one or two weeds slipping trough.
But they are both more efficient and less poisonous to your soil than weed killers, especially over larger surfaces

OUTPUT

In regards to output, there is a lot to be said, from water run off to grass clipping getting brushed off and going in the sewer. One of the biggest wastes is done during maintenance, and that’s also when you wash away all the nutrients and fertilizer and let it drain into our water system. You need those clippings, and by letting them wash away, you are ironically also paying for the city to clean them up.
Goes without saying that if you can, compost. Even if you don’t want to go all out on creating a zero carbon footprint, you should really consider just how nurturing compost is for your soil and just how well plants thrive in composted soil, especially if it’s dense and compact clay soil. And you don’t actually have to do it yourself. Go online and have a look around for communal composting around your area. And hand them the clippings instead of just throwing them away, who knows, maybe you’ll get some composting tips in the process.

AQUAPONICS

If you want to go the extra mile or to the last, level in reducing waste is setting your greens in aquaponic gardens. Zero waste, zero maintenance. A full-scale carbon and lifecycle right in your garden. And it actually gives you food if you set it up that way. If you have space for a pond and a plant bed, actually consider this more expensive garden. It will surely be the most eye-catching feature in your garden even if you leave it to the side and don’t really make a big deal out of it. That’s the power of selfaware design, it speaks of human values and engages even when it is understated and restrained. It’s just fascinating that we can create a complete, self-sufficient system within a couple of square feet. And we can do even more than that if you take a look at the permaculture craze.

DESIGN THAT BENEFITS THE ENVIRONMENT

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR YARDS ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT

Now we’re getting into the meat of this. This is all about reducing waste and getting the longest life span out of your materials. A proper garden should require some work to set up but then require minimal input or expenses over its and your lifetime.
The first point I want to hammer home is that the eye doesn’t see age or price. You see texture, color, shape, lines and elements. And for a couple of hundred years now we’ve had some fantastic materials that with fantastic shapes that can outlive us. So if you have a prejudice against anything that isn’t new, stop it. You are turning away from a Mona Lisa for a selfie. Old school manufacturing was a craft that took you years to master, now that same level of expertise and value is almost gone unless we are talking about really expensive custom pieces. And even then, I would choose the older piece because I’ve met some modern “craftsman, ” and they are younger than me. Don’t be scared of scouting around for old pieces or even damaged or rusty pieces.

RECYCLE

Scout around for some interesting pieces made out of recycled materials, I’ve seen this done with corrugated galvanized steel, terra cotta pots, and bricks. If you put in some work in even damaged or degraded assets can be made to shine again, literally.
Broken slabs of concrete can be sanded down, stained and used as walls, backgrounds, stairs or platforms. Use a slight stain and just add some character to it making it older, so it preserves its recycled origins.
If I had the time, I would never buy a terracotta pot or a forged steel support ever again. There are tons of beautiful designs online that outshine any expensive modern option. Get a privacy panel from our store over here, and you’ve got this very classic unique green vertical element that adds a character in any yard with a minimal footprint, both regarding space and regarding carbon.
In the the same way, you can use corrugated steel for any installations that require a sturdy material but be lighter than rock or stone. Get any construction throwaways, and with a polish, it’s brand new. This is especially handy as smaller pieces are harder to get your hands on without scrounging around. I don’t know why you would use anything else for a roof to your patio or shed. Always be careful when working with acid, always use protection a respirator and be aware of your wind direction or go to a professional and let them do it, support local craftsmanship whenever you get the chance, the have the tools, the skill, and the materials to give you the best results.

MULCH

Another waste is water evaporation. Ideally, for water retention, you should use a wood mulch, but I made my argument why that isn’t actually environmentally aware, it also encourages weed growth, and we already want to reduce the chemicals we input into our soil. So I go unapologetically with rocks or glass. Because we are talking about the smallest environmental impact, landscaping glass is the clear winner, within this context all Landscaping glass is eco glass. It’s recycled tempered glass and has no decay over the years. If anything you can just throw it in a tumbler with some carbide grit, ceramic pellets, and some water and tumble it for a couple of days and you get shiny new gems. No other ground cover can over so much for such a small carbon footprint.

And regarding water retention, we’ll talk more about that in the next part, but suffice to say that smarter irrigation and more intelligent selection of plants work better than using wood mulch as a universal fix. Plant trees, use shading panels, loosen the ground, so it absorbs more water and stores it deeper like in a rain garden, use a continuous automated sprinkler system in combination with. There are so many options that are much better than just storing the moisture with mulch.

GAS FIRES

picture of copper reflective fire glass

Now, you wouldn’t argue that burning fossil fuels are in any way sustainable. But if you really want that fire feature gas burners are so much cleaner than wood. Wood releases 3000 times more particulates in the air compared to natural gas.

Also, if you use a fire glass bed for the flame, you can accentuate the flicker and get away with a much smaller flame compared to the size of the wood fire you need to get the same effect. The Same thing applies if you have an aging fireplace and you want something new, go directly to gas, it’s cleaner, and it looks better if you learn how to use, by reading this article, over here from my fire glass design guide.

Check out our guide on Outdoor Fire Place Design for more inspiration.

INVADERS

Invasive plants are another environmental pollutant that up until recently we rarely considered. Because plants like the purple loosestrife have had a devastating effect on biodiversity in North America and New Zealand eradicating whole fields of local flora because of it’s more aggressive growth cycle, it matures and monopolizes the resources of other plants and clears out the native competition. These plants are like weeds on steroids. This is more than just another argument for nativars.

I want you to really look closely at the effects your plants can produce and how connected your garden is with the larger environment. We often just draw inspiration and falsely believe that our yard and the rest of the world are separate entities and the causality is exclusively one-sided. It’s not, and you should be more aware of that, especially if you live within miles of concrete and asphalt, which may seem like a world away from the forests of Cascadia or the Ogalla aquifer.

TERRAIN

One final note on waste and this is more of a metaphorical one. Don’t waste your space and native topography. Take advantage of dark corners, hills, and “10 hours of sunlight” areas. You can get a lot of variation if you use the environment and work with it instead of investing money to change it and adapt to the plants you want to use. And this brings up the subject of nativars. Local plants will always thrive where you need a lot of effort and expense to make others work.

If you don’t have much space; read out maximizing small backyard designs here.

Just by checking your soil and shopping around for climate specific plants you’re gonna have a better-looking garden, cheaper and without the need to use any expensive toxic chemicals. We’ll get to how actually to change the landscape in the next part, but for now, I want to address people that aren’t remodeling or have a lot of space. Use hills for greedy flowers than need a lot of air and sun. Use natural shade or a privacy panel shade for short brushes that want more humidity. You can get a lot of environments from a small garden if you try. This is what landscaping is all about, with enough money and tech we can build a Amazonian rainforest on Mars, but that’s just lazy.

ECO-FRIENDLY LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE

landscaping rocks

Now, I’m gonna teach you how to make the most of what you have available. The most obvious option and the easiest for those with small budgets are to collect rainwater runoff in rain barrels and just use the free soft water for your gardens needs. Besides the ecological benefits, this option is very versatile for use in small spaces and the Chinese are experimenting with the technology as a linchpin in combination with solar panels for indoor heating.

PLANT BEDS

Speaking of small spaces, downsize your lawn area. This is a forced design choice in many gardens built after 2014 when we all became very aware of the effects of climate change. Now, it’s not seen as a design compromise but rather a creative opportunity for zoning and segmentation, which means that in regards to lawns large yards and small gardens have an equal chance at bold, unusual design.
Flowerbeds are thirsty; use them as primary assets if you must have so you get most out of the water you have to use. Group them together based on their water and sun requirements. And funnel rain runoff into the thirstiest flower bed. Let it collect there and seep into the ground. If it doesn’t loosen the ground.

You can use landscaping rocks to help add to the design and look of your yard!

A BETTER FLOWER BED

This is a rain garden, and it uses depth of the soil as a natural reservoir for moisture that feeds of naturally from rainfall and any other water you might be using. It’s a bit tricky, and you need to adjust the water funneling a few times, but it’s amazing and invigorates your garden from beneath. Essentially they are a plant bed that is designed to collect runoff and stops it from getting into the sewers to prevent swelling during rainy seasons.

They also have an excellent side effect on your soil, because a rain garden is made of loose soil and encourages pudling and infiltration the water seeps into the ground actually sponging up all the water during rainfall and very slowly releasing it during the drier season. It’s a great way to keep your soil healthy and to stabilize the stress densely populated areas put on the sewer system. Again, usually people cover it with mulch to keep the humidity at peak levels, but as I previously said, I prefer landscaping glass because it’s lower maintenance and discourages weed growth. And if you live in harder climates, the weeds will love that wet, fertile soil you have in that plant bed.

DINING UNDER THE CANOPY

IN the same way, but this time from the top down, use deciduous trees as natural shade and moisture catcher in the summer, for your more sensitive plants or to help with water evaporation. Trees are the reverse of lawns, the bigger, the deeper they go and the better balance of your soils humidity. They lose water very slowly and need proportionally less. A large tree will do more for the dry soil than any amount of wood mulch because it creates it’s very own microclimate balancing out wind, sun, and humidity. And just like the airing out of the solid you do with a rain garden, the roots of trees do than naturally.
Trees also open up an interesting design opportunity, the livable recreational space. If you can afford a large three in you garden jump on it, it offers a unique feel for your gathering area, and it also provides a yearly natural source of composting keeping the ground beautiful and healthy. Use permeable pavings so you make an excellent compromise between making the most of the natural water cycle, and making is accessible and usable to your soil. I know changing your gathering spot to something more long term isn’t an attractive prospect.

Think about it this way: our resources are getting used up faster each year. And each year there’s more of us to share what we have. Sustainable landscaping isn’t a fad, it’s an integrated way we will think of about all future landscaping design, so why not just get a head start on everyone. By the time it will be the only affordable options due to watering restrictions you’ll have a lush 10-year old covering your garden with its dense canopy.

GARDEN HACKS

On a similar vain, but at a smaller scale, you should strive to use privacy panels and living walls instead of solid blocks for your separation. They don’t store heat and dry out their corners leaving some more breathing room, I’ve already talked about how cheap they can get and how great they look, so I won’t repeat myself, but you should also be aware of their positive influence on the health of your terrain and surrounding landscaping.
And we would not be talking about sustainable landscape redesign without talking about rain gardens. Because they can work with any water source and act as a battery for humidity making water usage more efficient, they are the cheap and easy solution for most landscapers on a budget. The combination of privacy panels, synthetic lawns and rain gardens, should work for most mid-size gardens and are flexible enough when used in conjunction with some beautiful landscaping glass or gravel to provide an infinite amount of looks and styles regardless of your local climate.

Get a mock up of your space and try out some designs, section it, figure out a central feature area, a secondary feature and then plan out some beautiful lines in between, cut them off with the panels and create the illusion of multiple communicating spaces instead of one big one.

GREEN LANDSCAPING PRODUCTS AND FEATURES

Go as green as you want, but at least try, there are plenty of lazy man option out there that are installed and forget. You don’t need to change everything in your garden. Keep these principles in mind for when you need to change some old features in your garden. Or better, follow the recycle policy, salvage the old feature and see how you can repurpose the old feature or spin it into something new. I’ve seen privacy panels made out of benches and art features made out of concrete stairs. Nothing is lost, everything is transformed, the only question is what is it going to transform into?

eco friendly fire glass container
But that’s an option, on a much more serious note is our obsession with lawns. If you live in a drought area, downsizing your lawns and getting rid of lawns altogether is somewhat more urgent as you seem to get less and less rain with each passing year. Cut it in quarters, and turn 2 diagonal corners into gravel pit’s, you will transform the surface into something modern and daring, and you would have cut in half your water expenditure.
Replacing the gasoline mowers with an electric or manual one is one of the simplest switches you can make. Now for me personally a rugged, sharp mower beats a battery one any and every time. I could rant about this for a whole post, and maybe someday I will. But in my view a push reel mower is always the better option: your grass will be healthier, it’s quiet, it’s easy to maintain and fiddle with.

But can’t argue with tastes. Just remember always to gather your clippings. Also, while on the subject of mowing, another handy tip to keep the ground from drying up is to leave your grass a little longer over the summer. It helps a lot and a 3-inch grass all but stops direct sunlight to fall on the underbed and drying it up.

DROUGHT PROOFING

So while technology is a downgrade regarding mowers or at best a sidegrade. A tool that does improve your landscaping massively are sprinklers and this time technology improves them massively.
Modern day sprinkler systems, monitor your soil’s humidity in real time, you can set variable watering based on zones and soil. High tech sprinklers are by far the most efficient irrigation option you can install.

Although a bit expensive it will more than pay for it’self in less than 2 years, or less if your utility bills are above the national average. While if you live in less dry places, you can make the leap to rain gardens and or collect rainwater into a reservoir as suitable alternatives, but in arid environments save up and get these things, because they make a significant dent in your monthly utility bill.
Again, especially for those of you that live in dry areas, the second biggest saver will be Xeriscaping. Over the years slowly move on to drought tolerant plants, succulents and deciduous trees for their soil regulating nurturing and protection and limited water needs. When you replace the ground cover consider landscaping glass, synthetic turfs gravel or crushed brick, which goes with any arid theme. Just remember, to get a strong weed barrier as well as dry land weeds are particularly hardy.
We want to use as little poisons as possible even in the dessert.Use dense rot-resistant wood for your finishings, and in no time you will have a well-kept garden, toxin free that will last decades in the dessert.Or go a bit further down the rabbit whole. Use weeds as a feature. They work really well in arid scapes, and if you use them with intent, they can pass for native plants.

THE HARD ONES

Composting and aquaponics are not for everyone. But in the case of composting, do share your biomass with someone if they have a compost heap and get your composting needs from them when the time comes. I have no place for composting, but I would never lay a flower bed without it, so I looked around, found a couple of guys within a 15-minute drive and I get my compost healthy and natural from them directly. And that’s also where I empty all my waste. Win-Win.
Outdoor aquariums are an interesting feature brought by the use aquaponics. In similar vain, ponds are the new lungs for your garden, so it’s definitely something to consider if you want to try something new and daring that infuses your yard with life.
And the last level of eco-landscaping would be the permaculture, which is the full-scale autonomous garden, but this is a full-time affair and requires a lot of space. The basic concept is to make your whole garden a self-sustainable microenvironment. And it is so fascinating I might make a whole post about it, about zones, edge effect, vertical layers and the inspiration that all that can create into landscaping design.

Fire Glass

OUTDOOR FIREPLACE DESIGNS: 10 FABULOUS Examples

They are actually a lot more than just 10 outdoor fireplace designs, but most of them are variations, and 10 seemed like a better title.

Patio outdoor fireplace designs

The traditional outdoor fireplace is the one that warms up an outdoor terrace or patio. It is a great addition to the living space and provides a little bit of coziness to the outdoor area. It’s a fantastic feature if you have the option to build it, no patio furniture can ever add the amount of character a fireplace can give your gathering area. Combine it or have it near a water feature like a pool or jacuzzi for the ultimate feel of the opulent design, despite the minuscule footprint.

outdoor fireplace designs

The puppy is optional

A secondary option is to have an in-table firepit. Not as impressive as the fireplace, but still better than a patio with no fire feature at all. Running a gas installation trough a table is pretty straightforward to set up, and there’s a lot of options regarding tables out there, so you will probably find a match for your current set-up easier than a full-scale fireplace.

For smaller gardens and “properties” get a new world chiminea but get something with an impressive finish. (Check out our guide on Small Backyard Designs for more inspiration)

The come with a lot of vintage looks and styles, and over time you will see that old, decorative features have a longer shelf life than most other simpler designs. You just get bored of them slower.

This also works as a general tip. Always downscale the luxury details to something more rustic and richer in character.

A fire feature sitting in front of people is also nice because it adds to the view, creating depth to the yard by creating a focal point in the foreground to serve as a benchmark for the view.

Modern outdoor fireplace designs

Modern concrete fireplaces are some of the most versatile full-size features you can get. So if you change styles often, a clean white fireplace is the ideal element to prevent any future clashing of styles. However, the central white fireplace isn’t the most inspiring of features so allow me to paint some tableaus for you to draw inspiration from.

outdoor fireplace white with tableThink of new world colonialism. A simple hacienda with rough stucco walls and old world forged furniture with some oriental tapestry. If your sitting area is on a hill, and you have some edibles in the garden, maybe some fruit trees, the picture is almost perfect. Put some South American folk music, in the background, to complete the picture.

When you get sick of the colonial theme, step it up into the 20th century with some solid colors and bolder accents. Go for some Southeast Asian garden plants and some solid red throwing pillows on some art deco patio furniture.

If you want a break from the embellishments, and the European decorative style, sandpaper the grit from the stucco walls and get a concrete bowl coffee table, cover the ground with gray gravel and add some short and stubby potted plants on the side for a minimalist zen garden. See how versatile this is if you want to dip your toe into redesigning your garden. A simple concrete fireplace is the best choice. Easy to do and with one white concrete fireplace you get at least three styles to try out and endless variations.

Variations on concrete outdoor fireplace designs

Go further, and make it futurist. Use a large monolithic concrete fireplace and give your garden the feel of post-technological hard sci-fi. I love this for any urban garden, but it is daring, and I understand if it’s not for everyone.

green yard with fireplace and seating area

It doesn’t get more basic than this, but look at how even a basic deck has

For a more warmer futurist fireplace, replace the side panels with glass and have a 360° degree fire that illuminates the whole yard and why not some of the house if you have glass doors to the garden. Brighten up the scene with some fireglass over the fire, and you get showstopping centerpiece that is ageless.

modern gas fireplace in patioFor smaller gardens, drop the fireplace altogether and integrated the fire feature into a smooth solid colored table. Use a linear gas fire source and create a long strip of fire coming out of dark fire glass from end to end. Now imagine that view, looking at your garden trough a long linear flickering light stretching over your whole perspective.
This small size design can open up many design opportunities. Use multiple strips and integrate them into the walls all around the courtyard or in case it in plexiglass and make it look like a floating fire feature, just hanging there in space.

Grandma’s cottage style

Brick is the second most versatile material you can use for building assets, but it does come with more personality than concrete. So you can’t really make it work with absolutely everything. Personality also gives, however. So you can make a lot more scenes with it without losing its feel and trying to hard to integrate it. And it’s versatile and scalable, it works pretty well as a fire pit or some other smaller features. More on those later.

outdoor brick fireplace

The scene is a classic German fairytale. Think of the brothers Grimm or the world of Tolkien. Dark brick cottages located in Bright green grasslands but surrounded by Dark earthy forests. In those forests, dark flagstone paths lead you to a closed off corner of the garden surrounded by thick temperate foliage. The only points of references are running streams of water washing large dark river stones and making the glimmer and shine.

Sounds good? This is how you do it. Get some woods, an orchard maybe. Make a clearing and make your sitting area there. Give the wall of the house an old brick finish and add a similar brick fireplace to the wall. Arrange the seats laterally from the fire and the makeshift “forest.” Make a path to a secondary element and cover it with flagstone and moss. For smaller spaces, downsize the orchard to just one tree as a counterpoint to the “cottage,” if you’re really struggling for space, replace the fireplace with a firepit. Accessorize any of these with wooden rocking chairs, maybe a bench and a porch.

Variations on cottage style outdoor fireplace designs

Go for a more story-like look and give your patio an outside library feel. Think Hobit library a la Tolkein with a view of the Shire. Cover the patio up and leave it exposed to the elements on 2 sides. Go overboard with the size of the fire feature, in this case, create a full lateral wall with 2 or 3 fires. Make it big and make it roar like a dragon’s breath. For the fireplace itself make use of old bricks with some gray cement, so everything looks ancient. Tolkien visuals are an incredible source of inspiration.

If you have a particular affinity for mushrooms, this is the perfect scenery to go wild with those colorful umbrellas. Trace some mycelium over an old log and watch it come to life with the ancient little shrooms. I usually don’t like them, but in dark, heavy landscapes like this, they do add something special, something not quite alien but a dash of Lovecraftian horror. Ironically enough, vegetable gardens whether on the ground or in planters also go very well with this fantasy theme, we all know hobbits have a green thumb.

Italian outdoor fireplace designs

Maybe you’re not a fantasy type, or want something more cheerful. So let me bring it down to earth, Tuscan dark red earth. From hobitts to Italian countryside houses. The seniore is thinkering all day in his shed. The seniora is bringing you treats every 2 hours, lunch is at five, and dinner is at nine, and as always it’s outside oven made pizza, made in their old brick pizza oven. The warmth of the oven and the red brick fireplace behind you makes the chilliest night just the right temperature for stargazing while sipping at some in-house vino and talking about past lovers. And that’s just a Tuesday because Sunday evening is a festa and the whole neighborhood is invited.

The greatest thing about this is that you do not need to buy expensive assets and most of you already have the yard primed for this if you have a southwestern arid theme garden. The only difference is that you add some continental finishings and abuse white natural stone whenever possible. The plants are the same, maybe the feel is just a little more crowded. But it does open you up with the lighter tones to try stronger colors.

Victorian outdoor fireplace designs

Maybe continental is too communal, perhaps you don’t live in an arid themed environment, and Maybe you’re more familiar with the NE Anglican style. For a Victorian / hamtonesque garden you just go darker. Warm tones become earthy, dark, and marble gives way to granite. But the brick fireplace will still work, you just replace the Mediterranean bush with something more Victorian, temperate and thirstier. I must warn you, I have no idea how to replicate the cold blue light that you find in Britain for 300 days out of the year. That’s an island secret, and they’re not sharing their trademark moody climate with anyone, except Bostonians, lucky sods.

For smaller space, to get these theme, you just replace fireplaces with smaller more portable chiminea, both terra cotta and forged steel respectively. But be on guard for the tendency for modern styles to get crowded fast due to their complex, substantial assets.

Outdoor fireplace designs made out of natural stone

This is harder to pull off by yourself but by God, can this make a scene. A stone fireplace is all you need for a decent garden. It pains me to say this, but it’s the quick and expensive fix. And it’s probably the best bang for the buck.

The warmth of the stone makes it just inseminate any garden with a Norwegian clift feel. You can get a wide variation of rocks, or you can just make your own. Scale works exponentially well with this design as our minds are used to associate gargantuan elements with rocky textures. How often have you seen a small mountain, after all?

Complement the natural feel with organic elements, moss finishing, a lawn and wood furniture, maybe a waterfall to get the full immersive experience of the garden of Eden. Or contrast it with a smooth modern couch to create that luxurious combination of upscale finishings and modern assets. You can also go minimal with a black boulder for a table leg with a glass top and give the impression of an adapted natural outcrop conquered by new modern materials but preserving its original character.

Again, the by the pool fireplace works great due to the texture of natural stone blending so seamlessly with water. Use a darker rock surface, and you get a scene plucked right out of the Hollywood hills or Monaco. Within a woodsman themed garden it elevates the whole environment to the level of hunter lodge and expensive sky resort living. Among small stout Japanese plants, you get some restraint but class is there in abundance within the restraint an old, ancestral feeling spills out from the intricate depth of the stone’s surface, infusing the scene with an ancestral stillness.

Greek stone lounge fireplace designs

From Buddhism to Greco-Roman showmanship. Create a circular amphitheater around the stone fireplace with seating out of light colored natural stone, granite, marble or some stained concrete. Keep it rouged, jagged, unkept, imperfect, natural as if it’s just cut from the quarry. Think of the Pantheon as inspiration.

Extend the landscape with some lamps spread across the garden. (Check out our Guide on Backyard Landscape Ideas for more inspiration here). Now, you have the perfect space for an old school toga party around a large central open fire, maybe a spiral fire to create some dimensionality and keep the geometrical playfulness. This also pairs very well with the stepped seating area and some wine.

Use a sloping distribution of seats and even play with height to keep the scene from being stale. Layer the surrounding area, make it rise up and around the fire or stage, or the primary asset. Use the environment for the vertical distribution if you can. Greeks were good at geometry and pure beauty or Euclidean aesthetic for the design nerds out there.

outdoor fireplace designs

Take note that this is a better use of space than anything you can have above ground level

As you can tell this is built around hanging out with friends on warm summer afternoons and chilly summer evenings. This is the essence of Mediterranean culture, design for socializing and interacting with your fellow man.

Variations on the Greek theme

For smaller gardens, Light some torches, keep some white stone around for the theme, get some paved paths, light Mediterranean shrubbery and the occasional short fire pot, and you’re done. Invite some friends over and have a very old-school night of theater, poetry, and philosophy, Greek style. That’s the thing about certain European niche themes. It’s all very implicit. The mood, the atmosphere, and the small touches contribute a lot more to the vibe than certain assets that just scream a particular style. But all intents and purpose, you can get away with it, by just having some Greek columns made out of concrete. The smaller space the fewer you need, and your Greek garden will be cheaper.

outdoor fireplace designs

And also take note of the long linear fire in front of the seating area

On the other hand, you can go the other way if you have space. Go big, mythical, awe-inspiring. Go for a large fire pit with dark lava rocks.

(Read our Lava Rock Buyer’s Guide here for more info).

 

Integrate the amphitheater into the environment and create features that look like a Titan’s footprint. Here you can incorporate trees or even the house it’self as being just part of the sloping landscape. I know this is very specific, but if your backyard is a slope or in any way horizontally challenge the terraced amphitheater look is one of the only options you can naturally integrate into your environment, and the results will be amazing. By turning your limitation into a feature, you will whoosh past any other designer that could never afford to move a whole hill worth of dirt just to get that natural amphitheater slope. Turning your limitations into inspiration is the cornerstone of incredible design.

 

Primeval outdoor fireplace designs

Keeping with the larger than life theme, but going a bit darker. With some darker rocks, some larger foliage you can go prehistoric. Think lush tall ferns, some irregular flagstone paths. Large amorphous slabs of broken concrete from place to place. As a backdrop, have some dark, gritty rocky walls covering at least one wall.

Note: Read our, “How To Build a Fire Pit 2017 Guide here).

In the distance, A pond would be nice, or another slab of primordial rock, just out of range, on the other end of the yard. Improvise seating out of mid-size stones or some logs, or mini boulders if you have the space for them. This is not a time to be shy. Using scale is how you play the game. Large bright elements that make people feel small and helpless. Counter that with a lot of light, so it doesn’t go too dark, just don’t be shy and downscale the elements.

(More great ideas on Fire Pit Accessories here!)

In this scene, everything is revolving around a large asymmetrical stone cave with a small opening and fire for heating up the prehistoric scenery. This actually looks amazing if you can pull it off, it is atemporal, and you can work with any woodland area, or climate, as you can just replace the vegetation with large rocks scattered randomly around the place. Now, the thing that really makes this pop is the use of flowers, powerful intense colors that just pop in front of the moody background. You can get a lot of mileage out of the environment always making it look 10 out of 10, 8 months out the year. And then going for the sleepy forest look.

Variation on primeval outdoor fireplace designs

outdoor fireplace designsFor a somewhat down-scaled version,  use a carved out gigantic boulder and make the fire inside it. Feel free to complement the rest of the scene with some shrubby plants, large super-sized rock walls, and dark rocky turf. Just enough so you crowd the visitor just enough that he feels the pressure of the environment. This fits the crowded nature of smaller gardens as the limited space works with the theme of small people in an old world where everything is super-sized, and nothing is made for people. For an even smaller version, but you are pushing it here, have a decent campfire and surround it with larger cat size rocks. In this case, you really need to go over with the look of your plants.

(To compliment this style; read our guide on great landscaping rock design here!)

For a counterpoint to the fire, get a large pond on the other side of the yard or a smaller one with verticality in the form of a waterfall. Surround it with some dark, dense vegetation. Now that I think about it this would be amazing if you have a lake-shore property. The deep water would actually work with the “human overshadowed by nature” theme. But if you’re not that lucky, a pond will get the visual job done. Trace the pond with some large dark stones. For a path moss and flagstone works, round stones if you are particularly masochistic and hate your ankles. As a distribution keep the setting a simple background foreground composition. One element close by and another to gaze at. If you lack length, curve the path and bend the gaze, so it creates an illusion of space.

Romantic outdoor fireplace designs

You know the look of those European old world castles and picturesque villages.  Dark forged Steel and white stones with some dark moss are the general rule. Think Game of Thrones but will less Red Weddings. You have a wide variety of options for your patio considering that most of our decorative tradition comes from European romanticism. So you can go as royal as you want or just settle from some rustic wood finishings. The look will still keep. Abuse wood and forged steel. From the pathway to the patio furniture everything is either DIY, or you can find a fantastic deal online.

The visual language of romanticism is infused into every aspect of basic design, the flowery bends in steel, the embellishments on basic carpentry items or the embossing on some terracotta pots. These are the traits that make cheap assets usually distracting in more high-end projects, but if you are going for the romantic theme, everything will just fall into place. That is probably why this is a good go to when you want to go for a versatile style. There are no minimum space requirement or must have an asset. You just mix some colors and texture and look for really decorative assets. If you are a vintage freak, this is more of a passion project than a landscaping one. The number of bargains you can find online is absurd because unlike other design styles, this is constant ever since the 18th century.

Variation on the romantic fireplace design

Turn it up a notch and make it this into an all-encompassing feature that dwarfs the house as the fireplace of a tavern full of people. This can easily be done by building the fireplace on the house and transitioning that side wall into the aesthetic of the fireplace, either with paneling or covering the surface in the same material as the fireplace.

Lead the eye back from the fireplace with an elongated element. Use something like a visible stone pathway or a bar. Make it out of wood and keep with the tavern theme, but stone can also work, I’m just not a fan of rugged stone countertops, and if you do make it smooth, you lose the gritty medieval feel.

The yard has to have a hedge maze. It’s a classic medieval landscaping trope.  If you’re worried about it all being too cramped, you can get away with mini mazes, think cat size. You get the effect but with minimal space and it will look like an exciting and cute miniature feature you improvised. Unless you live in a castle in the south of France, a maze is more or less to be expected then.

Just don’t combine it with the large fire feature. The clash might be too much. Go with one lead feature, the small maze with a smaller fire pit or a large outdoor fireplace with a full-size maze, maybe just some maze walls around the yard.

Large white smooth stones are a must have. The roman stone path would look cool but if there’s gonna be a lot of ladies in high heels, just skip it or go for disheveled pallet wood.

Of course, a pond and a mini arched bridge would be lovely, and you can even extend it into a mini lake for a large water feature as a counterpoint to the fire feature.

The medieval courtyard

This is something I saw just a couple of hours ago while researching for this post. Steel wood shed, with an open fireplace, an anvil seat in front of it for mood. The basic design is that of a rocky pathway leading to a open area with rustic benches and a wood table with another Roman stone path leading outwards toward the rest of the garden. Going under a rock arch between 2 walls. Stylized pit fireplace ready to spit roast a hog or any other large game.

outdoor fireplace designs

Theme done right

My mind is buzzing as you can imagine because you can add a central fire pit, some torches either on the walls or to define the path. If you have a farm, this works great with the rural theme you already have. This just goes to show just how much you can pull from the main feature with a lot of character.

Take this to the next level and get some fire pots, those movable above ground cast iron pots. Alternate them with some hip-high planters. To get the feel of manufacturing and old utilitarian.  Hell, the theme can even use some shine. Blend some fire ice in between fire stones to look like the dragon’s treasure is buried inside the fire.

Cabin in the woods

This is my jam. I just love the feel and look of the wilderness. There’s something about the woods that just opens up your sense and gives you a more dimensional experience. You smell the pine, you feel the breeze, you taste the charcoal.
Cabin escapism is definitely something you should try. Especially, if you have some trees around your property. Have a large wooden deck build up and let the grain of the wood show. Get a natural brick fireplace or any option really because in this case, we don’t need the fireplace to pull the whole scene in with it. Fire features just work so well with wood, we don’t have to force the theme on the fire element itself. Have a log rack lying around for atmosphere or make them into chairs or a table. Optionally you can add or some torches inside your garden. It actually works with anything as long as you’ve made the “log cabin” theme clear from the onset.

Variation on the cabin outdoor fireplace designs

The next level is hunter chic.

outdoor fireplace designsThink fur covers, an ax and more rugged elements for the patio and a faux log paneling on the walls. Use aged burned wood for paths, and log benches. The grainier and darker the wood the better in this case. Works best in northern climates. That added moodiness in the sky really adds a lot to the hunter cabin vibe. Do include a central campfire and keep a barbecue to the side. This is, however, one of those styles that you can half-ass, and it turns out lazy or bland. So if you don’t have any real study trees around, don’t force the woodland vibe and stick to the modern variations.

An exception to this is if you live in the tropics or near a “jungle-like” environment. Deer hunting cabin and crocodile hunting cabin are just shades of gray. And that southern Louisiana vibe is something you don’t really see anymore.

Still not sure what to think?

Check out our Guide on Outdoor Fire Pits Vs. Fireplaces here!

 

Fire Pits: Buyer’s Guide 2017

picture of Fireglass fireplace

Fireglass is hotter than fire itself!

Fireglass Fire Pits and fireplaces have sizzled this year as one of the top additions to many restaurants, hotels, commercial offices and residential homes. 

Imagine sitting by the fire on a beautiful evening with your family and friends, taking in the marvelous sunset during the golden hour, or under the stars on a full moon with your favorite beverage.

picture of fireglass fire pit in backyard

Seems like seem like the perfect evening? You bet it is! When you have a fire pit outdoors, all this is possible. According to industry experts, landscaping professionals and land developers having a fire pit not only adds to the “Wow” factor to your home but also adds to the value of the real estate. In addition, fireglass fire pits are a hot commodity in the eyes of today’s top home and garden designers. They are trending not just in homes, but also for commercial offices, restaurants and hotels.

If you desire one of these fantastic additions to your home, then there are a few things to know first:

  • – Three main kinds of fire pits
  • – Two kinds of fireglass used in fire pits/fireplaces 
  • – Three kinds of fire pits depending on use 
  • – Three kinds of fire pits according to material used to construct them 
  • – Six kinds of fire pits based on types of fuel used Fire pits depending on size

 

 

Let us discuss all these points in detail below, which would help you be make your best buying decision.

The three main types of fire pits

The three main types of decorative-cum-utilitarian structures are permanent and portable. Fixed fireplaces, the one Santa Claus comes down during Christmas, are more expensive. The good thing about these is most houses already have them which makes the transition to fireglass from fake logs very easy.

Check out our intro to Fire pits 2017 guide here.

If your existing fireplace does not have a gas connection or you do not have an existing fireplace, be prepared to shell out a large budget. Fire places can be quite expensive, however they make a grand statement and will be customized with the design of your house. The also look stunning when fireglass finishing touch is added. In addition to the costs, you need to adhere to the rules and regulations from the local fire agencies.

Portable fire pits, as the name suggests, are portable in nature. These are made to be as lightweight as possible out of ceramic composites or lightweight concrete deposits. They usually run off of a portable propane or natural gas tank, however it will look much better if you can connect them to an existing gas line at your house.

picture of portable fireglass fire pit

The third fire application is the fixed fire pit. These are the most common fire applications in backyards of homes, restaurants, commercial offices, and hotels. They are built to be permanent with a number of different materials such as brick, concrete, rock, and a number of geological sediments such as flagstone or slate. Regardless if you plan on creating a fireplace, portable fire pit, or a fixed fire pits, each will look amazing with Exotic Pebbles natural collection fireglass or reflective fireglass.

Using Fireglass with three kinds of fire pits depending upon locations and business

Fire pits may not only be where you want to roast your marshmallows like your are on a campout, however the flames coming through the cracks and reflecting off of the beautiful fireglass surface will captivate everyone in it’s vicinity. These can also serve other utilitarian functions:

Fire pits as decoration: If the fire pit is more ornately and modern in design, it can serve as a beautiful piece of decoration. This use is commonly associated with hotels and commercial offices because most people will simply be passing through rather than enjoying the fireplace as a hangout spot. If your building has enough space, then this type can be perfect for you. Highly creative and artistic fire pits will increase the value of the building substantially along with the value of tenants and rent. Also using a low maintenance and highly attractive/aesthetically pleasing fire pit filler like Exotic Pebbles Reflective Fireglass will turn heads and be memorable to clients of your tenants. Their clients will be thinking, “Where is their office again? Oh ya it’s in that one building with the sparkly fire pits in front by the main entrance”. Remember that the next time your are showing your building to a potential leasing tenant.

picture of outdoor fireplacefire, pit, accesories

 

Fire pits as furniture: Many of these items serve as tables and even sitting stools. Fire pits are generally constructed to be of bar high or as high as a table, or can be created to be almost close to the ground. This makes them easy to sit down on, or to keep your foods and drinks on them. Many restaurants choose to use these in the front where they have foot traffic to attract passers by to come in and enjoy a drink or dinner. It is proven that that restaurants with pleasing aesthetic design and features like fireglass fire pits increase business by 30% more than ones without. Pairing a fire pit with dazzling fireglass is the icing on the cake. Keep that in mind next time you are debating on a redesign.

 

fire, pit, accesories concrete fire pit and seating area

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire pits as a gathering spot: There are fire pits which are designed in a way that you can have friends and loved ones sit around them an enjoy the ambiance. These types of fire pits are commonly used at restaurants and residential homes. The fire pits are usually fixed and designed in a round or quadrilateral shape with seating around it in a similar shape. Since most of these fire pits or fireplaces will be lit at night, we recommend using our Reflective Fireglass at restaurants and our natural fireglass at your homes.

fire, pit, accesories

 

4 kinds of fire pits according to material used to make it

You can have your fire pits to be made from a wide variety of materials such as aluminium, copper, cat iron and fireglass. Here are the benefits of each of these materials:

fire, pit, accesoriesAluminium: This lightweight metal is not a good conductor of heat like other metals. Does that sound like a disadvantage? Perhaps, but it is in reality aluminium’s greatest strength. Because it is a poor conductor of heat, you have far less chance of getting the pit getting damaged by fire. Aluminium is affordable, light in weight and durable. If you have children and pets at your home, having a fire pit made from this metal may be your best bet. Fireglass conducts more heat than ceramic logs and lava rock so it will be heated by the aluminum more than sand or rocks to produce more than enough heat for you and your guests

outdoor fireplace designs

Cast Iron: This is a good conductor of heat, is sturdy and quite cost effective. Now, since it conducts heat well you may need to be extra careful. For instance, you should not be placing items on cast iron fire pits which can easily catch flames.

picture of copper fireglass fire pit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copper: This is yet another metal which is a popular material for making both permanent and lightweight fire pits. While it is more expensive than cast iron, the fact that it develops a patina over time and has a nice color more than makes up for the downside. If you have a nice budget with which to splurge on, a copper fire pit can be your ideal pick. Copper mixed with Exotic Pebbles Copper Reflective Fireglass creates a winning combination if you decide to go this route.


Six types of fire pits based on fuel

Perhaps you are thinking that only wood or coal is used to fuel the pits. You’re not wrong in that, but today other fuel sources are used too, which has more significant benefits. In choosing a suitable fuel, you may look into environment concerns, your monthly budget, the type of fire pit and safety issues. Now, without any further ado, let us delve into the different fuel choices for your pit.

outdoor fireplace designsWood is the tradition choice for many reasons. First of all, it is easily available. Secondly, it is more economic than other sources of fuel. Thirdly, it gives off a lot of heat, a fact that makes this a prime choice for those long winter months. The downside is that burning wood is not exactly good for the environment. The likelihood of it causing a fire hazard is also drastically more than other fuels. However, if this is indeed your choice of fuel source, understand that there may be certain rules and regulations from the local authorities. For instance, you may not have a fire pit burning on wood within certain distances from your house, from the fence and from the neighbor’s home, and in some areas you can only have seasonal wood fires because of the pollution it creates. 

Propane gas is a better choice than wood in many ways. For one, propane gas can be fed just with a removable tank. This is also better than natural gas as a fuel because in the case of natural gas, you need to make a line, which costs a lot. Propane gas as fuel for your fire pit is cost effective, but you still have to watch out of its current market price. In addition, propane gas tanks need to be taken to refilling stations to ensure that they are safe or not.

Natural gas as a fuel source is indeed more expensive. It costs considerably to lay a natural gas pipeline just for the fire pit. However, this downside is also an advantage. While it costs a lot to lay a natural gas pipeline, this initial high cost pays off in the long run. The costs of running such a fire pit is much lower over time when compared with other fuels. Another upside is that it is easy to light a fire on natural gas.

fire, pit, accesories

Charcoal: This is also a cost effective fuel solution for your fire pit. Charcoal is easily available as well. The downside is that it creates considerable smoke and soot, which requires you to do considerable cleanup after you have had your fun. This fuel works best over fire pits which you may want to have a barbecue.

Flammable gel: Flammable gels are easy to apply. These are highly portable and therefore ideal to work with your portable fire pits. You need to be cautious while applying it. Perhaps the only downside is that unless you apply the gel evenly over the surface, you may not have a proper fire. While the gel may be flammable, it may not spread evenly on the surface.

Bio fuels: This can be the cheapest of the fuel sources and is easily available. It is not used much but is still a viable option.

Natural Gas and Propane are the only types of fuel acceptable when using fireglass as a design feature. This is perfect for many reasons being that all other fuel sources have way too many negatives than positives when using it for the reasons we wish to use them for. We highly recommend you stay away from all other fire pit and fireplace fuels to keep costs low, maintenance low, and your assets safe! To read more about using either propane or natural gas as a fuel source, please check out our past blog post where we discuss the pros and cons of each.


Fire pits depending on size

Depending on the space around your home, especially in your backyard, you can have a fire pit built or bought. These come in various sizes. Needless to say, if you want a portable fire pit you don’t want to go with a huge one. Small sized fire pits come in sizes of 20-25 inches. These are generally round in shape for better handling and are ideal for small yards and patios. The large fire pits come in sizes of 45 inches and beyond. If you have a large space in your yard, go with the latter. Good thing Exotic Pebbles and Glass has a huge selection of fireglass and fire accessories that are easy to install your propane or natural gas fire application.

Top trends and installation of fireglass fire applications for 2017

Now that we know which types of fireglass fire pits there are, it remains to know how to set it up perfectly. In this section, we shall tell you just that!

Which is the best part of your house to set it up at?

In most places, the rule is to have a pit installed at least at a distance of 10 feet from your home and from the neighbor’s grounds. Some areas do not require you to have a building or installation permit, while other places need permits from the local authorities. This is especially true if you reside in the USA. There are some US states with their own regulations which require additional site inspections to ensure safety for all concerned. Just having a fire pit at a proper distance from your home is not enough. It remains to be seen if it near to any overhanging branches, to trees, fences etc. There are some places in the USA where fire pits are not allowed at all. It all depends on your specific area. 

What is the best platform to set it up at?

According to experts the best surfaces to set up your fire pit include stone slabs, bricks, slate, concrete, fire resistant surfaces etc. The more fire resistant it is, the better it is. If a surface is not so, it remains in the danger of getting significantly to completely damaged due to fire. Even the smallest ember may cause the worst of fires. If you are looking for a permanent fire pit, chose a surface made of gravel.

Backyard landscape ideas

How to create the perfect ambience for your fireglass fire application?

Ambience is everything! After all, that is why you are setting up the fire pit, right? To create the right ambience, you need to look at the surroundings. You may chose to invest in simple solar lights which don’t require an electrician. Consider the addition of metal chairs as opposed to the wooden ones for obvious reasons. Alternatively, you can have stone platform build around the fire pit with space enough for maneuvering and safety.

Backyard landscape ideas

Important safety tips for fireglass fire pits and fireplaces

Whether you are planning to install or develop a fireglass fire pit at your home, hotel or commercial office, there are some basic safety tips to keep in mind at all time.

When lighting a fire, know which way the wind is blowing. When it comes to lighting a fire, wind direction can make the difference in safety and harm.

There are two things you must never use in the vicinity of fireglass fire pits, or fire or any kind. These two things are flammable liquids and flammable clothing. These catch flames very fast.

There is a reason why people use old hardwood when it comes to lighting fires. These burn easily and nicely for a long time. In addition, these do not throw sparks. Always avoid softwood which does throw sparks that can prove to be dangerous to anyone sitting nearby. 

Disposal of ashes is an issue. You need to do it safely each and every time.

Why are fireglass fire pits popular in 2017?

In recent years, fireglass fire pits have become very popular among home owners, hotel owners and office area developers. As a common benefit to all, these provide a place where families and friends can gather for a wonderful evening and providing the warmth of fire at a new “room” addition to your house. It is not necessarily hard to start a fire on these. Electric switches to start the fires have taken control of the market along with timers to make sure the fire is put out.

Buying and installing a fireglass fire application on the grounds require a fair bit of thinking, planning and budgeting. However, at the end of the day, these bring more benefits to the table. Here are the reasons why these are more popular than ever in 2017.

Per safety tips; check out our guide on how to install a gas burner here.

The operation of fireglass fire pits is not limited by the seasons like wood fire pits are. It will continue to function whether the season is summer or winter, spring or fall. Fireglass fire pits can also withstand most weather including snow and rain, depending upon how heavy this fall is. This creates the benefit of having a warm fire to gather around all throughout the year, a benefit which cannot be weighed by money. Fire pits also make your grounds very elegant, especially if complemented with a proper sitting area. It you are planning to have on at your hotel or commercial office, consider a round sitting structure made of stone.

picture of fireglass fire pit in the snow

Yet another benefit of having one on the grounds is that you can immediately warm up after having a dip at your pool. Of course, this works well if you in fact have a pool to start with. For best results, have a sitting wall constructed around the fireglass pit where bathers can come, sit and warm off against the flames. The idea of getting warmed and dried against the blazing flames is truly something.

A fireglass fire application can be the focal point of your grounds landscape. If you wish to have one installed at a hotel, on the office grounds or even at home, consider installing it so that the rest of the garden may seen to complement the fire pit. Place it on the centre of your grounds where it can be seen easily. Trust us; everyone would want to see it!

Fire pits and fireplaces add value to any property. This makes them an excellent for property development. The more you develop the property, its price rises due to the benefits presented. When you sell such a land, you get a considerable sum. Even if you do not wish to sell off such a land, especially if you are the owner of a hotel or office, having one of these can be used as a point of interest for the grounds. Let’s say that you are the owner or manager of a hotel. You decide to install one or more fixed fireglass fire pits on your spacious grounds. Now your guests or tourists can get the benefit of having their own private parties around the fires in evenings. As a hotel owner, you can choose to charge more for this premium service.

picture of corporate building fireglass fire pit

If you have one or more of these at a commercial office building, you can directly profit from them. This aesthetically pleasing feature will allow you to increase the amount of rent charged to tenants. These will serve as focal points that corporate companies will be recognized by when clients visit their offices. If one wishes to impress their clients, then having one or more fire pits can go a long way. Most multinational offices tend to have spacious grounds that have enough space for these fireglass application additions.

Fireglass fire pits specific benefits for Homes, Hotels and Commercial Offices

There are benefits to business which only a fireglass fire pit can produce. Real estate agents and commercial developers/renters love the value a simple fire pit feature can add to the property’s value. When they sell such a property, such structures can result in a surprising sum of money. However, hotel owners, office managers and home owners do not necessarily wish to sell their properties. If we take that as our working hypothesis, let us see what benefits are received by these specific property owners if they install fire pits.

 

picture of cobalt blue reflective fire glass fire pit on the beach

Homes

Fireglass fire pits boost the value of your property. However, may not necessarily have monetary gains from this. Most of the time, people have these installed for the ambience only. Fire pits give a great place where families, friends and colleagues can gather for a wonderful evening. According to experts, one of the reasons for their popularity is because people are slowly drifting away from the outdoors, from a more natural setting. For this reason, they wish to develop the area around their home in a way that can help them to get a balance of indoor and outdoor life.


Commercial Officespicture of corporate fireglass fire pit

One specific benefit for offices is that you can use such structures to impress clients. Such outdoor structures can also prove to be areas around which you can have your official parties. Fire pits make your grounds look beautiful and also double up as places where your employees can unwind.

Hotels

For hotels, installing fire pits can bring monetary benefits. These can add as added benefits for your hotel, places where your guests can have their own private barbecues.

 

Conclusion

Outdoor fireglass fire pits can be a visual delight to the eye. It can act at one of the most attractive feature of your home, office or hotel. In 2017, there are many kinds of such products you can have. These structures provide endless hours of fun, laughter and merriment around the blazing flames. At the end of the day, money falls low before such happiness.

BACKYARD LANDSCAPE IDEAS 2017 GUIDE

picture of multiple OUTDECO Privacy Panels

 

I just have to put these backyard landscape ideas down before I forget them.

You see, I just got back from a fabulous soiree with some of the brightest minds in design, and I am buzzing with creativity and ideas.

Take a seat, get your cup of coffee or tea close by and enjoy the trip trough the minds of the world’s top decorators.

And as a bonus, I’ll give you some adaptations in the form of some backyard landscaping ideas on a budget.

Here are some basics you will need, Fire glass, privacy panels, landscaping glass and a yard.

 

 

Rise of Organic Landscape Design

First “must have” going on for 2017 are natural materials and textures.

We want warmth among all the cold polished steel and minimal plastic our tech comes in. People are gravitating around biological indicators, to remind themselves of their “natural” origin.

It is a pleasant return to the style of the 70s and 80s after people got sick of the futurism of the 60s. Some will argue that this is weird considering we are still before peak tech and with AI just around the corner our technological endeavors will only get even more pronounced.

To them, I will argue that we put a man on the moon the same year Woodstock happened. The year of the greatest human achievement occurred the same year humanity looked inward and rediscovered their spiritual sensibilities.

 

 

picture of Decorative High Polished Black Pebbles on Basalt Column

Back to our roots

Natural tactile materials are all the rage. Rock is the new polished metal and smooth river stones.

If you have granite, slate, travertine, limestone and stacked stone lying around, use it in abundance. I was sort of a visionary in this case, as I’ve been preaching for dedication to natural patterns and textured surfaces for some time now. However, I am not going to say I told you so, I’m just glad people moved on from the “Can’t go wrong with polished steel” mindset.

This is also good news for the budget savvy. The budget backyard idea you should get from this is concrete and stain are your new best friends for the immediate future. With enough perseverance, you can turn any wall into a slab of Norwegian cliff face.

picture of MARAKESH outdeco privacy panels

MARAKESH 24 x 48 inches – 80% Privacy

Faux sure

And forget about all that faux mumbo jumbo. DYI is in this year in a big way. The rule of thumb is, if you can make it yourself, it’s cool.

Online designers that have been influenced by big design trends have finally gone mainstream and have started a feedback loop, changing the larger trends of the industry. This means that effort and innovation trumps rules in 2017. Better said, personal touches and artisanal works are the standards for 2017.

Don’t be concerned about ideas or rigid design, free form is also in, so no need to stick to rigid structures or themes. In fact, as you’ll see later, designers are breaking all the rules this year mixing and matching sizes, textures and heights like crazy. It’s a brave new world for design.

picture of orient outdeco privacy panels

Old is gold

Old-fashioned design elements and features are back. 2017 is all about fusing the old with the new in a complementary fashion. It’s like our culture is trying to reconcile the character of old-school with the utility of the new. It’s quite poetic. This means steel chairs with concrete tables, Flagstone paths with landscaping glass accents, Zen fountains and sheet metal planters will all define gardens in 2017.

Be bold and blend elements into compelling, shocking ways. I know it sounds scary, but keep your intent clear and don’t combine more than two elements and you should be okay. This is an excellent time to go to that garage sale or your grandparent’s attic and find some vintage pieces. Most of those steel assets can easily be reconditioned, and for a few bucks you get a rare piece that would cost a hundred times as much, and you probably couldn’t find in any non-specialty shops.

Not going to lie, this year won’t be accessible for newcomers, but I think it’s a sign of well-needed maturity in design. Putting some beautiful river rocks in the white sand wasn’t design, it was an art project. And one that everyone copied their work off the one student that actually did put the work in and did something innovative.

Revenge of the plants

Along the same lines of reimagining the 70s, houseplants are back in a big way. Modern man is tired and needs some distraction, needs to make his home feel like home again instead of a casual office. We shoot for the stars and the apex of our business environment, but we need some roots to ground us(pun intended).

That’s why we are seeing a resurgence of plant life. For years we thought that the gardens of the future will just be lifeless fusions of concrete and gravel, and the only indoor garden we will get to will be the zen garden. But apparently not. Plants are coming back in a big way and even conquering the inside of the house, an area millennials we’re reticent to experiment with, until now.

Believe it or not, I was one of them I hated indoor plants, they felt stuffy and moist and intoxicating when in bloom. Ironic, considering what I do for a living. Now, I actually miss them, I get a weird feeling that the house is too sanitary, too artificial.

Modern Landscape Design Fights Back

But despite all this, modernity is not going down without a fight. Solid color blocks are hard and bold assets. And in a year of clashes and stylistic conflict, it would be impossible not to use them. The same can be said for clean and smooth backgrounds or solid, colorful surfaces as counterpoints to more organic floral assets.

As a budget backyard idea, this is great news, this means that to have an in-season fashion you can get away with a plaster square or a clean concrete wall. No money, just bravery and a little bit of know-how.

Throwing pillows in solid bright colors, cubicle bright red tables, or yellow brick paths are all reasonable options. Obviously, don’t use them all at once but feel free to be bold, especially with cheaper pieces. I want to abuse this year’s liberty and try some yellow or lime green terra cotta pots.

 Fence, Sectional, & Privacy Paneling

Inspired by online designers, the square white minimalist wall panel is the must have an element of both outdoor and indoor design.

Its expositional nature makes it an excellent minimalist background for any feature you want to underline. The simplistic understated surface makes anything you put in front of it pop out and shine. Its ambiguous origins make it extremely versatile, you can build it out of anything you have on hand, from marble to cork or cardboard. Like with most DIY, if you make it work, it doesn’t matter how you did it. Now, what plant do you want everyone to notice?

If you have some old separation panels or privacy walls, give them a new finish and use them as backgrounds for a “faux” Instagram photoshoot starring your favorite cacti or palm. You can view a view ideas of what great privacy panels can do for your yard here.

Create some segmentation and add volume and angles to your yard. Volumetric complexity is always a great plus. And while we’re on the topic of size, go as high as you want with the paneling and finally integrate that lateral wall into your patio completely, add some wall hanging greens and turn the patio into a much larger proposition for the casual viewer. Be careful not to over promise. The view needs to be just as grand as the environment. Otherwise, awe quickly turns into disappointment.

 

Fusion of modern and hyperrealist old

This is a fascinating phenomenon. You have traditional elements like DIY planters mixed in with new surfaces and exotic, colorful plants. It’s like the new chic; poor, shabby but tasteful and elegant.

It’s a very fresh mix of style and taste and basically, puts every timid rule designers used onto its head. You won’t be able to get away with a well-kept garden and two water features this year.

The wall panel illustrates this in an excellent fashion. It’s very easy to make it bland, but it’s cheap and easy to try out. So it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong. And if you pull off you have the best excuse in the world to show off that unique little plant that you know is your favorite and you wanted to show off for so long.

That’s what 2017 design is, it’s big boy pants for designers to prove they are ready for the big leagues. I would recommend keeping backgrounds simple and clean. Concrete, plaster, clean bricks and then add a few simple elements arranged however you want.

Keep it on rotation, change it up every week. I bet you will run out of ideas before the month is up, but keep going. By spring, out of boredom and frustration of not having any new ideas, you will come up with something brave, something that you just put together out of impulse. That something will, however, be fresh, exciting, innovating and very pleasant. Congratulations, you have just created a design.

Glass and rock

One of bravest directions I’ve seen was that of landscaping glass as the new gravel, linear ponds of blue landscaping glass surrounded by dry gravel and harsh dark greens that bring to life the environment in some new hyper-realistic way that would make a minimalist scream. See some examples of landscaping glass in action here.

Light, bright lawns are out, strong dark fake turfs are in. Released by climate circumstances from the obedience we had towards the “natural feel of grass, ” and with the confidence that the greens around the turf are more than sufficient to keep the yard organic and natural, 2017 opened up a lot of options regarding ground cover. Anything you ever wanted to try is fair game now. Be bold, be confident and give your garden a vibrant background.

Think of it as a reversal of roles, before we used the ground as a space of exposition for the main event, now it can be the main event and add effervescence to the whole garden in one swoop. Go wild with the synthetic turfs, or even darker weirder colored grass. I don’t know about you, but ever since I saw blue grass, I wanted to experiment with it. And now I finally can.

Simplicity and structures

This is the new rule of the game. Clear intent as always when using bold elements and clashes of styles but the new twist is structure. Everything fits together like a puzzle. The composition of 2017 is very architectural. You can see the layers the planner had envisioned, and it’s almost like peeking behind the scenes of the show. We’ll talk more about the self-awareness of this year’s design in the next section.

From the Pinterest-like wall panels that display hanging pots of terra cotta to the 2 tiered flower bed with variable height, everything looks like a design feature meant to post on Instagram. Everything has to look well on its own and then the powerful part is pulling it all together and make it work as a whole.

Contrast in foliage, height and forcing complementarity are the new challenges that you need to fit together. This means that we’re going to see a lot more diversity among the plants we use in our designs.

Bushes, dwarf shrubs will replace the hedge and the lawn, and you need to make them work with edible gardens and modern materials. I know how it sounds but follow the rule, simplicity, and structure. Create a background, simple, clean hardscape that is “Instagram friendly.” Then add your main feature, something wacky like a large spread succulent and then surround it with something complementary, like some colorful ground covers. Straightforward and structured, as if it’s assembled.

Water is the new zen

Nothing that was Zen is Zen and works anymore. It actually never did, but it was an excellent option for our increasingly more crowded living conditions.

If you want a cold clean look, you get it with water features. Fountains, waterfalls, and ponds have punched out the oriental look and are now in the driver’s seat when it comes to offering tranquility and a peaceful vibe. Again it’s a stroke of genius I would never have considered it.

Now I know some people will stick to their 15 shades of gray Zen garden. And you should, just give a water feature with some natural stone a try. Maybe put it somewhere in the corner. Cut back on the texture if you will go for marble or some dark lava rock as a background. It’s still peaceful, but it’s a lot more vibrant.

For the rest of you, there is a water feature for every size garden. The bigger the better, if you have a farm, go full size with a pond and fountain. For a patio, you got to have at least a waterfall, especially in some beautiful granite. If you live in the city and you only have a shared space yard, try a simple concrete fountain with some fire glass at the bottom for that added liveliness.

If you haven’t been all that daring with your landscaping until now, this is an excellent opportunity to try something more daring than a privacy wall.

Also if you’re limited on space; our small backyard design ideas 2017 guide can help you make the most of your space!

Eco Friendly Design Awareness

Another direction for 2017, as I previously foreshadowed is a growing sense awareness and the spread of design with consciousness that is self-aware of social issues, and how it impacts the rest of the world. The increased pressure from the drought made sustainable design a must have for a lot of designers.

Therefore, you see many attempts to reimagine the thirsty lawn into mixed turfs. Designers predict we’ll be using all sort of mixed grasses and shrubs for coverage and abuse the difference in texture, color, height between them to keep the viewer’s eye entertained.

So how does that translate into a budget backyard landscape idea for your sustainable corner of heaven?

Well, this means you have free rain to try out some less thirsty options, plants that will also need less maintenance and you have a lot more options when it comes to filling up the sides of your path or corners of your living area. Use this year’s blending license to combine them with some of the more pretentious greens, and you get a more sustainable garden overall with the added pop. Desert plants, cacti, and succulents are the first tier in your design, especially if you live outside of the tropics. Combine small shrubs with your older trees and get an elaborate wall of greenery that will require almost no maintenance while still being very in season and stylish.

Do you have a smaller space? Replace your old turf with just a couple prairie shrubs, bursting out a gravel cover. It will give your garden a Wild West feel and allow you to conserve water. Segment it with some privacy walls covered in some south-western hanging foliage, and you get a great 3D garden with minimal hassle and cost.

outdoor fire pit with fire glass

Hyper localism

Another side effect of the self-aware design is the focus on hyperlocalism. Keeping your garden in tone with your climate zone shows not only insight but also responsibility and restraint. We’ve seen in previous years that with enough money the global economy can make anything possible. But we soon found that it’s not worth it. You can bring the rainforest to New Mexico, but it’s a parlor trick. It just doesn’t feel right.

All that is gone now. No more exotic plants or sensitive growers, all of them have probably been bought up by the new botanical garden in Dubai. You get to use local plants, in interesting new combinations and brave new arrangements. This is another upswing in the creative potential of backyard landscape ideas for 2017. Because just buying those expensive Japanese orchids.

Therefore, like with many other themes, the industry is hitting a hard reset and going back to the basics with a more grounded awareness of sustainable design. This deconstruction is opening up landscaping to all sorts of previous “do not’s.” All bets are off, feel free to experiment and make an effort to blend new exciting local options into your design. In fact, as you will see later, the braver the asset and the more effort you take to blend it into your design the better the design.

Live-in gardens

The other main direction backyard landscape ideas are heading for 2017 is that they reclaim the garden as a place for people, instead of an abstract canvas for design.

A movement I wholeheartedly embrace, and I think it will bring a lot more character and emotion to landscaping. One of the best “assets” you can have in your garden are a couple of children playing. Any scene will instantly come to life with the laughter of children. No doubt about it if you have kids, your garden should reflect that functionally, and you shouldn’t apologize for that.

Every garden should be created around people, it should be a space to be enjoyed from within not just experience from afar, quite the contradiction with the detached style of the “display style” of the layered visual aesthetic of the wall panels.

As a backyard design idea on a budget, the focus should be the living space, the lounge, the dining area or the playground. Everything else should revolve around that. I don’t recommend you make it an asset but rather the purpose of the yard. From there you can expand and create some definition, either with privacy panels, mid-high plants or some paths.

Regular readers should already know my affinity for firepits and the sense of gathering they imbibe in a scene. All living areas should be concentrated around the fire. If it’s a lounge area, make a gas fire covered in fireglass in the middle of the coffee table. If it’s a dining area, have a pizza oven or grill installed just to the side of the space, while in larger gardens go overboard and have a full-size fire pit with fire stones and bricks.

fire, pit, accesories

Homesteading

A big push in reclaiming the garden as a place for people has been in the homesteading craze. Gardens design to provide real life benefits.

This homestead theme solidifies a lot of previous concepts, localism, easy maintenance, sustainability a return to past values and creating a living space designed for people. And above all else purpose. It reinstates purpose aesthetic, the revenge of function against form. Now, that doesn’t mean form get’s neglected, we just have some new guidelines to design around. Think free bebop jazz is conquering the rigid form of swing.

Herb gardens and vegetable boxes have combined into The ideal element of utility and design. Bring back the grandparents experience of the old country and make some space for a mini orchard.

If you never even pickled your cabbage, this might sound a bit much. But give it a try. Start out with basics like cooking. Get the basics down and learn to cook a full meal, make mistakes, get it right and then improvise on the exact recipe. After a few weeks invite some friends over, make it an occasion. Call it a drinking night or board game night to relieve the pressure off yourself and your cooking. Surprise them with the food, enjoy their faces, gratitude, and joy.

There’s something we lost from previous generations, simple things like sharing a meal, making your own food and doing something more complicated than work, entertainment and leisure. There’s just some real depth to actually making an effort to live life and not just satisfying your needs.

Back to the basics

If you don’t have a 2-acre farm, you can still copy the style, there’s some nifty DYI vegetable beds and the loft with a herb garden is already an urban cliché.

Container gardens are very affordable and have a lot of character turning the greenery into a feature instead of just a natural asset.

Go the extra mile and design yourself a wicking bed for the ultimate in sustainable gardening. Planters like this make for a great mix of sustainability, DIY and have a tiny footprint both regarding space and water consumption.

Step it up even more, and you get greenhouses. This may be a little much but if you really want to go all in and have some less than optimal circumstances this can be a fascinating spin on the modern/organic duality with loads of character and room for personalization and making it your own.

Now, I am talking about greenhouses and wicking beds as design elements and features an homage to the history of gardening if you will. I totally get if some of you are somewhat reticent to invest time in vegetable gardens.

But be honest, you don’t need to play the piano to appreciate it’s class or be a avid reader to feel the warmth of a fully stocked old world library. This isn’t however for everybody, and I totally understand if it’s too much into function design. You can give your garden character even if you just stick to the living area and play area themes.

picture of marakesh outdeco privacy panels

Playspaces

A second function used in homestead design is a design made for human activities, play spaces and event ready mediums add a lot of warmth and character to an area. I’ve already talked about the value of children’s laughter regarding the warmth of a garden, but go back into your own memories and think of the value you give them when the landscape is designed for play.

Also, I really want to take you back to your childhood memories when the garden was a place of fun. And this works even if you are an adult, keep that mindset. A place for fun. Maybe it is nostalgia or a bleed of Hollywood’s remake culture into landscaping. But there’s definitely something more there. It’s not a feeling or emotion we are chasing, no two people had the same childhood. Rather a mood, an atmosphere of less complicated times.

backyard design ideas with fire pit

Atemporal bliss

It’s like taking a vacation trough landscaping. If you have the opportunity go to Sicily or Cuba,, where people have more green in their gardens than wireless modems. Try it, everything goes down a tier in terms of intensity. Simple matters like dinner and half empty glasses of wine become the life or death issues. And it’s not about the vacation mood, I worked out of Sicily. Work is still work. Just that it ends. When you close the screen, you forget about everything other than your immediate vicinity. It’s like a regression to your childhood. Then and there is all that matters, you forget the past, and the future is irrelevant. That quasi-ignorance is the opposite of flow or hyper-efficient work mode.

There’s a human touch to the state, something that instantly puts you at ease, allows you to turn off the tense part of your brain. That slowing down is what we are missing. And that’s what this new year’s design is trying to achieve. It’s not an accessory to life but rather the arena where life takes place. That homeyness is coming back in a big way in 2017, and in my opinion, it could not come fast enough, because you can feel the alienation in the air. We connected to future and forgot something essential for the human experience behind. We forgot to take care of our inner child, and I guess that’s what these backyard landscape ideas are trying to fix, we want to give that inner child a play space, finally.

Shop landscaping glass

SMALL BACKYARD DESIGN IDEAS – 2017 GUIDE

A friend told me that she couldn’t find any small backyard design ideas online. Everyone is showing off farms, yards and luxurious patios with pools, but nobody has any advice for those that barely have a herb garden, techniques for a shared yard in between flats or at least a couple of small backyard design ideas.

small backyard design ideas
So I decided to write a guide specifically for people that don’t have a lot of space and want to know how they can make the best of it. I’ve broken down all my small backyard design ideas into categories according to the level we are talking about: macro, mid and micro landscaping.

Related: Backyard Landscape Ideas 2017 Guide

Mix and match them accordingly as you see fit.
The first type category is concerned with the use of segmentation at the macro level, the use of zones, dedicated spaces, and clearly defined areas.

The second part is about the use of segmentation within a scene, paths, lawns, and how to create density for depth without creating clutter. After that, we’ll talk about hot to segment vertically and take advantage of the third most important dimension when we lack space within the first two.

The third part will be a crash course in minimalism, modernism, solid shapes, colors boldness and how to reduce visual clutter at the micro level. And then I’ll end it with a list of the strongest assets you can get to implement these small backyard design ideas.

Zones

The zonal design is a form of large macro level segmentation. This adds complexity, utilitarian depth without clutter. When it comes to small backyard ideas, this is probably the easiest to implement and have a strong effect.

 

backyard design inspiration

The only real rule is not to overestimate the versatility of the area. The only difference between a cluttered dining area and the feel of a smart compromise and a smart use of limited space is to feel.

If you don’t have enough room for a dining area make a lounge with a small couch if it’s too small to make it a playground make it a garden or lawn.

Overestimating and cramming people or landscaping assets is the only thing that can turn this into feeling like a compromise.

Corner of Heaven

If you have two solid adjacent walls, you can cover them in a light colored, solid material like rock, plaster impressions or stones and then spread out from them.
This design works best with square yards where one dimension is not obviously longer than the other, and you have a great view on one side of it.

A lot of Mediterranean patios take advantage of this trick: the large house as a background, small patio, and wide unobstructed view. Next time you see this on Instagram get your eyes off the view and just look how many feet the patio actually has.

segmenting your backyard
On the adjacent wall, you add a strong, impactful piece, like a water feature or fire feature. It doesn’t need to be large, you can get away with a small planter filled with fire glass, but make it clear and with intent.

Don’t leave any doubt that you have a fire feature on that wall. In between use a small coffee table with clean, smooth lines and clean texture. The contrast between the 2 distinct elements and the high textured walls and the small flat coffee table will create an added sense of dimension and space.

Actor and director

When in the scene, the view will give a feeling of space that will confirm the illusion of grandiosity set up by the massive stone walls. The two elements do work individually, but the view would be wasted without the grandiosity of the surrounding wall and fire feature.

The garden would just be visually compressed and shortened without any robust elements in the foreground to ground the eyes. While without the view the walls will give the sensation of massively but your eyes won’t be able to escape.

 

 

best backyard design

 

The technique is segmenting and clearly defining foreground, mid ground, and background for both the viewer and the user of the tableau. For the audience, you see a clear coffee table, the lounge elements and the walls as a background.

Behind you it could be anything. All you see is the small patio shadowed by the impressive landscaping. While for the people that sit in the scene, they have the table again in a very clear foreground, the mid ground will become everything under the line of the horizon with the eye transfixed by the lateral element and the background will be the sky.

Cut it in half

This is a risky one but works with longer yards and converted driveways. It adds a lot of lengths and visual depth. But it also risks looking improvised or accidental. Again, do it with intent. Add a lot of personalization and unique features within the micro to compensate for the bland macro.

So how do you do it? Simple, cut the space lengthwise in half. Keep one-half green and make the other half the gathering area. As long as the sitting area is wide enough to be comfortable you don’t have to worry about feeling cramped.

Also, be careful with the green area. Use small plants and landscaping so that you have leading lines to guide the eye lengthwise over the scenery.

backard architecture
If you pull it off, it should seem like you have space to spare because you created 2 gardens in one, or a patio and playground, your choice.

The areas don’t have to be linked together or even work thematically, just keep the same style, arid, Victorian, pacific-islander, and it should work.

In fact the weirder the pairing, the better it works, water feature and grill area or lounge area with a fire feature table with the kid’s playground, work just as well.

Your eyes lie.

Always be aware of your perspective. That’s the basics of design. You can pull them towards the horizon, and your brain thinks that that’s where your property ends. Conversely, go around the Eiffel tower. It dwarfs the square which feels small by contrast.
Use leading lines to create length and an artificial vanishing point from the perspective of the people sitting. Add just a little bit of tilt and make them diagonals for some added width. We’ll get to lines and segmentation later.

But for now, try to make a simple area like a lawn or flower bed a linear experience rather than a focus point. We’re playing with surfaces and spaces now. Don’t concern yourself with the details of the specific areas. Just think of the eye movements.

Keep the eye moving and don’t let it stop.

Rule of threes

But what if you can’t comfortably use the patio area if you split your garden in 2 lengthwise? You cut it in 3 squares. You should get 3 squares that should work on their own. You won’t get all that much greenery.

But space will seem a lot more functional and useful which will increase complexity and apparent depth, without creating clutter. Theoretically, you could do it in quarters, but if you have space for four comfortable areas within your yard, you don’t need small backyard ideas, you need just basic backyard design ideas.

 

plants in backyard
Go for any combination of patio, dining area, fire feature, water feature, flower garden, children’s play area, lawn, water feature. Just keep in mind to put the natural area further from the house than the more artificial ones.

Fell free to create some separation between the zones with privacy panels, but only partially.

Let people see from one area to the others, so don’t completely cut off one space from another and maintain an illusion of a common area.
Another element we can introduce here is height. The view of the people sitting in the lounge area should look down and out. Don’t obstruct view with a large element that makes the viewer feel crowded.

Feel free to elevate the patio or dining area slightly to give it that little extra bit of view.

Segmentation

This could be a whole post onto itself. But let’s talk briefly about paths, borders and arabesque lines, and everything in between.

Middle ground segmentation in particular. In a large yard, borders define and delimitate larger tableaus, they are only accents serving a higher purpose.

They should never create the effect or set the larger scene.
But they work a little bit differently as small backyard design ideas. In small spaces, we use them to grab attention but not let them dwell in a single spot for long.
The more clarity you have where a flower bed starts and where it ends the more your eyes will stay between the lines. And that’s what we want when the flower bed is half the garden.

At the same time, paths trick the eye and create length or width when they are diagonal, while arabesque lines take it for a walk, across the landscape.

The difference is infinitesimal on the stopwatch, but those extra milliseconds of lingering are enough to create a different perspective.

Paths and gravel

So because eyes stop at the border between two zones the most defined of areas, gravel pits, become an essential feature. You have an excellent way to add volume to a rectangular table or flower bed, without actually occupying a lot more space. Here’s a few examples of landscaping rocks and designs in action.

Make sure just that there’s some breathing room in between the asset and the margin of the round gravel pit and you should be good.
When it comes to alleys there’s only one option. Large slabs of light gray stone wider than both your feet, side by side in a symmetrical fashion with plenty of breathing room in between, they will create the impression of a wide path, that will stretch across your garden create the illusion of space and volume without occupying any actual space.

backyard gravel
Your brain knows that the track is wide and automatically assumes that it’s just as wide 10 feet away, so it adapts its impression of the end of the yard about the trail’s width. This creates an unintended vanishing point that creates the illusion of space continuing beyond the horizon.

You can exaggerate this effect by narrowing the alleyway towards the end of the yard or creating a hump before the end of the pathway, behind which the path actually ends.

Levels

Another way to differentiate and create complexity without wasting space is abusing verticality. Whether you use steps, platforms or different sized bushes, use verticality to build interesting combos without taking up a lot of square footage in your garden.
Tall hedges walls with eye drawing elements towards the top of them. Create platforms and lift your patio or dining area. Instead of wasting space by creating a rock garden or plant bed, use some wall mounts and “paint” the walls green.

Hang some potted plants, let some foliage hang down low Think of your walls as an additional surface area for your garden. And here’s where the cool little touch that is privacy panels come into play.

 

backyard lifted design
Play with height. In the space of a few feet that you would use just for one element, one flower bed, you can have a complete feature if you put those plants on different layers and stack them in a rice field style.

One of the coolest small backyard design ideas I’ve ever seen recently were these fascinating planters that worked like a pyramid or spiral. Sitting one inside the other and gaining height, put that in the middle of your small garden as a central feature instead of a flower bed and another feature.
Speaking of flowers and height, be very careful about plant sizes, it can get crowded very quickly with larger plants. Keep them tall or short but always thin.

Bold and beautiful.

All we’ve been talking about up to this point has been about making your yard more crowded, adding more elements. But here’s the kicker, all those layers and crowded design ideas, get balanced out at the micro level.

Close up, every item you use needs to be boring, untextured. Use solid bold colors that have no complexity. Simple linear patterns that come out of the mind of a toddler.

backyard seating area

 

The untextured simple flat surfaces will allow the eyes to gloss over quickly or not even focus in at all, this makes a complicated scene accessible, minimalistic and is perceived as being very tasteful. This enables you to get away with maneuvers that would look horrible in a larger yard.

Let me give you 2 examples to illustrate my point so you can get a better feel for the micro-macro balancing act.

The zen garden

Zen themed gardens. Due to the minimalist surfaces, it’s very hard to pull off large zen theme gardens. Using more elements breaks the clean, minimalistic theme and keeping the sparsity will make it seems ascetic, destitute and barren.

lights in backyard

 

An attempt to fix this is using larger or bolder, more contrast-y elements. But it never actually gets rounded well enough to compete with other uses of the Zen style, and you’d clearly be better served by trying something else for your large yard.

Cacti beds

My second example is the flower bed. I usually encourage large expansive foliage that yells out: look at me, I’m in bloom! I hate cacti and restraint when using plants.

But that doesn’t work on a small scale, your asset will look, either clumsy if you use only a handful of plants or improvised and indecisive.

While taking advantage of the intertwining foliage would create a density that when used on a small wall or with not enough space it would seem crowded and forced.
I have to admit, for small areas, smaller, simpler is better.

Color and patterns

I like clean shades of gray but some will need to boost their look a little bit more, so this is one of the few times that you can let your freak fly, color wise. Use bold complementary colors and make a statement.

Just use flat, unimpressive textures. Most modernist features work down sampled as small backyard design ideas. Abuse the diversity found in plastic features and the versatility of concrete. Make it your own just keep it clean and unimpressive.

zen yard
Another customization for the simple, bold surfaces is the use of patterns. Like I said with borders, keep them large, uncomplicated and easy to see and gloss over. Watch out! Creating a pattern vertically with some hanging terra cotta potted plants is different than creating a pattern made of cacti in a flower bed.

Horizontal patterns can be more crowded than vertical ones. We’re more used to them. Be mindful of spacing and kept to the basics: triangle composition and diagonals.

Simple and clean.

Goes without saying that one sure fire way to crowd a scene is not to maintain it. Mess untidiness and clutter go hand in hand, and I personally saw how it can quickly turn a whole warehouse into a New York loft.
Use fewer elements, simple, tidy lines, and functional design to keep the scene as clean as possible at the micro level so that the layers on the macro level can do their magic.

small backyard design ideas
For any small area, Maintenance is crucial. Particularly in the city and especially during fall. Keep it everything clean and trimmed.

I hate to say it, but laws work perfectly in small spaces and by keeping it nice and cut you get that cool, clean carpet look and feel that will give the appearance of good taste and restraint instead of regret for the small space.

Same goes for gravel pits. If tidy, excellent, but it gets messy fast, and that can turn a pleasant feature into a bad feature overnight, literally if you have some strong wind.

Top assets

Conifers and dwarf plants

I know this is a no go for some of you, but some of them can be cute. I’m not really fond of them either, to be honest, but they just work.

They add just enough green and life to a small alley/yard, and they just infuse so much life into a small concrete urban back yard in between flats. And if used sparingly the have a lot of character without taking up space or eclipsing other elements.

hanging plants

 

Give them a try, if you must combine them with privacy walls and spread them vertically. Speaking of which.

Vertical plants and hangers.

Tiered plants, stacked planters or spiral flower beds. If you can get it off the ground, do it. One of those spiral/hemispherical planters works great as a central feature with minimal square footage.
Moving up, literally a level.

Pot racks and supports, suspended vines, hanging climbers. Add some suspended or hanging potted greens to the top of the walls for even more elevation, height, and depth of the scene.
I may be more hesitant in going with a full arch as that crowds the area too much and cuts off the horizon. That being said, I saw an ivy branch over a doorway in France, which worked as a great small backyard design ideas.

Let’s just say you can pull it off but it’s not a rookie move. But otherwise, spread the ivy. There’s no reason to neglect any wall and leave it as it is.

Lawns and gravel

Use circular perimeters and clearly defined edges to get the most out of your area. Flat surfaces make simple features more evident and give them a sense of purpose. And you will be using simple small features in small gardens.

Without a gravel background, a stool is a lonely chair, with a background it becomes a landscaping element place there with intent. Same goes for lawns. It makes the difference between a low-budget imitation of a public park playground and a special play area for the kids.

 

gravel for the front yard

 

Lawns do work as simple coatings of “large” segments of the yard so they can be rectangular stretching from edge to edge. As long as you use it someway obviously.
Critical note, anything wider than an alleyway and this gives the impression of weak, uninspired landscaping. Don’t even attempt large surfaces of simple greenery if you have a large yard and you’re not going for the golf course look.

Patterns

Whether in your deck, plant beds, paths or walls, use large sparse patterns that make the eye glance with speed not stopping.

The continuous movement gives the impression of space. Here are some concrete, ideas. Rhomboid/ triangular potted plants hanged on walls. A sinusoidal gravel path leading to nowhere but becoming narrower and narrower towards the end of the yard, faking a faux vanishing point.

fire, pit, accesories

Place around it some semi-circular lawns in that alternating fashion, and you get a fascinating composition that can fit into the smallest of alleyways.

Upgrade that with some spiraling flower beds growing out of the semicircular lawns and slab some large symmetrical flagstones on the path to add more width to it.

This will require more space, think 2 car driveway. But it will give you more complexity than you really need to.

Put some lanterns in between each flower bed if your yard has the extra length and you created a visual adventure for anyone that comes to see your small but powerful composition.

Mirrors

I would say smoke and mirrors this one is all about illusion and the hint of extra space. Use mirror panels on a privacy wall to open up space. Place them on plants and larger assets to give the background depth and light.

Speaking of light, catch it with mirrors and this isn’t just a small backyard idea. An Italian friend of mine had only a small shared yard to work with, surrounded by those 2 story Mediterranean houses.

She bought 2 large full-length old mirrors and put them on the back of the doors to the veranda above the average yard. Every summer evening, it would catch the lovely golden hour sun reflects it onto the interior walls of the courtyard.

The walls had a golden tint that made their diffusion even warmer. The feeling of that simple courtyard where you can barely fit 5 Fiats was like something out of a fairytale. Mirrors can turn the environment into something special, just be mindful and don’t blind your neighbors.

Concrete.

Let’s put bricks here as well. Keep the assets bold, exciting but simple. Modern patio furniture raised fire pits/coffee tables, small walls are some examples of what you can do. Check out some fire pit accessories here.

A little can go a long way within a small space, so consider this before you go for some of the more substantial assets you see online. Plastic and concrete are great because they can be downsized massively and there’s a lot of options out there.

concrete fire pit and seating area

 

A very simple compo is a raised sitting area, for 2 people so that they can both look diagonally at a yard with 2 large planter assets that have some height to them, maybe a staircase-like arrangement.

Upgrade that to concrete planters that “grow out of the wall” maybe some simple wood stain to match your house and then a gravel path around a lawn with some minimalist bright tulips.

Lounges, coffee tables, downsized waterfalls and fire glass

Cram the sitting area right next to one wall a slim, long sofa will use space a lot more efficiently than a table believes it or not. When sitting around a table, there’s a lot of dead space right in the middle that isn’t actually occupied by people.

While with a sofa that dead space is minimal. Behaviorally It’s more relaxed which encourages people to fill more space and feel less cramped. A coffee table can give you a smaller footprint, and because of the lower height, it also leaves a lot of space above and around, so people don’t feel crowded.

fire glass and outdoor seating
Downsizing also works great with other features. For a waterfall, all you need is a water source, a path, and a collector. That can be anything and size doesn’t matter because the eye will never notice the difference between 2 inches or 30 inches of water.

Fire glass is even more powerful. As long as it’s unobstructed, a glimmering gas fire installation will light up the whole yard without any issue, which is a great small backyard design ideas.

Put it on a wall, a concrete rafter or in the middle of your coffee table and come nightfall the size of your garden will fade into the darkness and the atmosphere will infuse with the warmth of the fire.

If you only use your garden in the evening, a fireglass installation is probably the best bang for your buck regarding small backyard design ideas.

Plastic is fantastic

Small backyard design ideas might be to come up with on your own. But using our inspiration guide you can model your yard after a design you like whether that be the earthy feel of sophisticated textures, shadows, and mid-tones.

Or, if you’re a bubbly type that loves glitter and bold colors, then doing something with colorful fire glass or landscaping pebbles will be suiting.

 

gorgeous outdoor fire pit

 

As long as you don’t add too many elements literally anything goes in small spaces, the bolder, the better. Start with some bold throw pillows for your lounge and scale it up from there. Bright red bricks with a glossy plastic finish.

Tall faux post-modern lampposts made of semi-translucent white plastic. I’ve seen them filled up with bright red and yellow fire glass alternatively and shine warm light over a large balcony.

Small Potted cacti in the shape of a heart hanged a barren side wall that dwarfs the yard.

Finally, be sure to shop our incredible extended collection of Fire glass, privacy panels, and landscaping rocks for your hard; at Exotic Pebbles here. 

Gas Fire Pit Accessories – the 2017 Complete Buyer’s Guide

Shopping around for fire pit accessories is hard, it’s difficult not being inspired or wondering if the little accents that catch your eye will work with the theme of the fire pit you have at home. Add to that the almost infinite variations you can find online and the design landscape can me intimidating, to say the least.

Shop for fire pit accessories here!

So to help you out I tried a simplified classification based on materials to find out the accessories that will work with your theme and that will give you the most freedom in your search so you can explore your inspiration in a boundless fashion.

Gas Fire Pit Accessories Broken Down by Materials

fire pit accesories

Let’s start out with the most natural of settings for a fire pit accessory and move on to more modern abstract designs as we look at more modern materials and accessories.

Under each material, I will try to inspire you with a style, an atmosphere a tableau that you can draw from and express onto your own yard, garden or patio.

Some solutions require large open spaces and a lot of distance from your neighbors so take only inspiration from my larger tableau and apply it in smaller scale using a safe gas fire installation with either propane or natural gas and faux assets, to achieve the same effect. In general the more natural the look, the more space you need to achieve the same effect, while more modern designs evolved in more cramped urban settings.

Another important note, most gas fires are either rectangular or round, use what best fits your other assets. If in doubt go for a round fire. But a linear flame is really impressive and has more punch than even your natural log fire.

Fire pit accessories made out of wood

  • Marshmallows
  • Grill
  • Wine rack
  • Novelty axe
  • Log benches
  • Log racks and baskets
  • Popcorn poppers

fire, pit, accesoriesWood is the fist theme you associate with fire pits so it makes a lot of sense that most fire pit accessories will be made out of wood. It’s the material we associate most with fire, anytime you go to a cabin with friends or want to have an intimate evening and there are just too many stars outside to settle for just the regular indoor fireplace.

Replicate the cabin feel with some logs. Logs are a strong asset, they scream:

We’re in the woods right now and infuse the scene with that log cabin feel.

Polish them and add a layer of sealer and make them improvised rustic bench. A central huge log is almost a cliché at this point and still has a strong impact however you use it. Go for a more carved look if you are literally next to a log cabin, or for a more subtle and polished bench if you are in a small town in Colorado.

Cabin in the city

In an urban environment continue that “log cabin” theme and make it the support and excuse for the fire. Carve out space for a heat resistant tray and some space for the gas installation trough the log, and place some lava rock or pale fire glass on top of the gas.

This installation is a great way to make a smokeless “log fire”. This is also a more interesting interpretation than the usual faux “logs on gas fire” that just sit in precarious position forever. Most cabins I’ve seen actually have that gas fire with the faux logs on top and they usually look terrible.

Another scenic alternative is log racks are also a good alternative, the bigger the better.

Another type of wood, that is more convenient is pallet wood; it’s a cheap and easy source of good nice wood grain. Just get creative with the material and nobody will be able to guess from the results the humble origins of that the wood source. For nice finishings close it up with some sealant, and it’s gonna require a lot of talent because it’s very thirsty and for more experimental looks feel free to try some of the thousands of stains on the market.

Pallet wood fire pit accessories

In a cabin in the woods setting, pallet wood walls, even a fake one, complements the outdoor look and brings the scene together, if your fire pit isn’t all that large.

Cover an old mini fridge with slices of timber giving it the impression of a log rack and you get a covert mini fridge on hand without ruining the ambiance.

Related: How to Build a Fire Pit 2017 Beginner’s Guide

Integrate variations of this as fences, separators or even under some boring benches as filler for some otherwise uninspired seating options.

Carve a path

Set up a pathway with some ravished pallet wood, bash and crack them with some rocks and then darken them over a fire for some really dark broody colors and cracked texture that just ooze out mood and atmosphere.

 

Put some tiki torches or oil lamps made out of forged steel and you have a Pacific islander look that can vary from vacation time in theme to really dark and moody based on the amount of life you have around.

Bourgeoisie fire pit accessories

For the urban “logger” a DIY wine rack with a wood theme is a nice touch that can add another layer to the outdoor feel. Also, I’ve seen some very interesting options you just plop into the ground.

If your seating arrangement is low like a lounge or more rustic like a log, your guests will be very thankful for the added accessibility feature.

For a more bottled up outdoor fire pit look. Add some dark gray firestones around your deck and a long continuous fire on both sides of the deck for a very versatile campfire look. It’s like using torches, but stronger in effect and without the added holiday vibe to complicate the scene.

 

Metal Fire Pit Accessories

  • Candles with metallic or copper finishing
  • Chiminea
  • Cadle holders
  • Forged steel arches, gates and vine supports
  • Old reconditioned coal grills or suspended girls

I know it sounds kinda weird, but it’s not really, metal chimineas are a great alternative to large fire pits when you have limited space. And they ad a lot of character.

For a more versatile asset, go with black steel, that can work anywhere from a Victorian garden to a Portlandian roof top.

We associate dark, forged steel elements with fire at a primal level, it’s maybe even a stronger association that with wood. Forged steel patio elements are the more versatile options than the earthy texture of wood doesn’t work in your “cleaner” garden.

They have a lot of character that you can shape into a wide variety of styles from colonial to the post-industrial art deco look.

Just use it sparingly in busy gardens and use a bright background so that the dark curves of the forged steel can be clearly seen.

One of the worst things about forged steel is that people use very nice designs and shapes as utilitarian filler. As the accents of a patio roof, table legs or potted plant supports.

Please trust the element, let it stand by it’self. Don’t cover that forged gate, that lamp post, or that forged fire basket.

Galvanized Steel Fire Pit Accessories

Use galvanized sheets and corrugated steel for some industrial element that just touch on modernism but keep a grimy contemporary look fit for a busier garden. Brighten the scene up with some fire glass and give it all a 70s rehaul, without stepping into the clean, abstract modern look.

And finally use flat steel surfaces.

Use them for fire elements, to bring the fire into the 20th century with a monolithic thin but tall chiminea.

Combine this with understated warm wood surfaces and plastic and some concrete designer elements (I’ll talk about those later) and give your backyard that designer, New York loft/rooftop feel. Being modern and abstract, keep your elements bold, simple and use them sparingly, black is a color and light tones are background when going modern and minimalist.

Shadows

Use copper, zinc or steel sheets are as an interior reflector for deep smaller fire pits. Cover the interior rim of the fire pit in sheet metal and then enjoy the amplified shimmering. It’s like fire glass but for large deep fire pits.

The crucial part of this trick is the depth of the fire pit, you should not be able to see the flame or the interior from your vantage point. Only she shimmer of the light should be visible. This also works for smaller setup and gas installations, just use round flames instead of the straight ones. Use some blue or golden fireglass for even more reflexion and enjoy the very dramatic light spill.

Brick Fire Pit Accessories

  • Anything ceramic, pots or urns, go old school Mediterranean fire pit accessories or even Arab influences
  • Chimineas
  • Crushed roof tiles

Due to the redish hue, brick, works great with any fire elements. Bricks aren’t as versatile as stones because a brick stool would be impractical on so many levels for example, but they have some additional qualities. You can build a whole patio area with a central fire pit out of the same material. They are the brass of ceramics, with some situational versatility.

On their own, bricks are very subdued. But that makes them an excellent building material. And you can have multiple large elements that blend together seamlessly because they are made of the same material.

Fire pit arenas

You can use bricks in the construction of fire elements like the old school brick oven for pizzas or the walls of a large firepit you reuse in the woods just outside a cabin.

Keep one side open and you can get a very interesting fire feature even with a less inspiring material.

Pair the fire feature with a lounge seating area made of the same bricks. Alternate the shapes and angles of a short brick wall around the fire pit for some visually interesting seating arrangement. Using the same material ties everything up and opens up avenues for experimenting without making the scene to much.

 

You can go curved, but make it an unexpected semicircle, think three 15° degree segments or two 40° segment instead of using 90° or perfect 180° semicircles. Use both 15° and 40° degree in combination, just do it boldly and intentionally, instead of small subtle size differences.

Alternatively use straight walls, for fewer curves, and more space-efficient seating. To break the monotony alternate the seating spaces in height and play with it: for example start out with a low setting zone, then go very high, like bar stool high and then go down a little to an intermediate height, like that of a table.

Do this for 2 walls that make an obtuse angle with one another on one side of a fire pit and you got a very unique and memorable lounge that costs next to nothing.

Another cute little spin on the fire pit is a layered fire pit. Surround the fire pit with an inner wall of bricks and an outer wall, between them a layered bed of red lava rock. Trust me, the different gradients of red and arid textures will make the fire pit more lively than you think.

Basalt, Granite, and marble fire pit accessories

  • Concrete tops, stairs, bowls
  • Minimalist patio furniture
  • Leather lounges
  • Wood fire pit accessories
  • River stones and flagstone paths

Similarly to stone, but with a cleaner look and feel, marble is a favorite of mine, but it also comes at a cost. Additionally, you can use it as a very cool, fire pit table with a long small fiery center. For maximum effect make it a long 8 or 10 person table and let the ambient light take a back seat to the spread out the flickering fire of the centerpiece.

A superb touch is if the table also comes with a granite lid for the fire pit at its center. This works also for smaller, patio coffee tables that you want to turn into evening features in a couple of seconds.

That brick seating area needs something more, just add a granite top, the uneven asymmetrical pattern combined with the smooth finish just made is a work of modern art.

Is the wood and brick fire pit a little boring, add a granite top or even convert it into a fireglass fire pit with a smooth thick border, on which you can put your coffee cup or wine glass on.

Going modern

Associate granite with cleaner shapes in a more minimalistic way and get a nice sleek modern looking garden, yard or even small urban shared yard.

The look can get very clean and just a couple of rectangular and very tall terracotta planters filled with burning dark lava rock and a granite top bench can turn any sparse drab backyard into a modern expression of urban cohabitation.

Basalt is an alternative, it looks very dry and matte, I like it in special situations but I would use it more like a brick because of it’s limited expression.

Marble is a cleaner more elegant rock, I can’t justify the added price and limited availability. That’s why you learn design, to get interesting looks with limited material and resources.

Concrete fire pit accessories

  • Any of the above, it’s just too versatile
  • Faux art pieces
  • Plaster murals
  • Very modern decking and patio furniture
  • Fireglass, even bright colored Fire glass

Now, we get to the good part. I love concrete and absolute versatility. Imagine any shape and texture and then google what stain you need to get that out of a drab slab of concrete.

If you are somewhat more advanced, you  know how to use concrete to get any surface from porous to smooth to shiny, just by the quality of your mold and how dry your mixture is(if in doubt go with a smooth plastic mold and wet concrete mix)

So what can you do with a toxic, mix of powder and water?

Form over function

Remember that modern art exposition that has some weird geometrical black statues that were just so clean and tidy that their look just stayed with you. Well being a simple geometrical shape means you can probably make that mold and you can have that ornament in your garden or home.

 

Go further, add a bowl-shaped indent on the top of it, and leave some room for the gas installation inside it and you now have a post-modern fire feature.

These bold shapes work very well with almost any setting and are a one of a kind landscaping asset. I some design ideas are wushing trough some of your minds right now, when you realized that you can create a fire feature in almost any shape, faux marble greek garden, anyone?

Faux and fabulous

But it goes a bit further, you can stain concrete and get remarkable textures and tones out of it.

Look at the previous point on natural rocks, all that texture and richness you can get for one hundredth of the price with good concrete and some DIY. And unlike absurdly expensive natural rock slabs that could get damaged in transit you don’t have to tiptoe around concrete. Actually you can just chip it away come spring because you want a different texture. I’m not kidding, if you do it once, you’ll want to experiment over and over again.

So all those shiny tops at the previous point, count them as concrete fire pit accessories with some more DYI but a lot cheaper.

This opens it up to some amazing artistic opportunities if you want to experiment with it and considering it’s lower price, you can really go to town and try it out over and over again until you get just the right burgundy gloss from that textured old slab you use for a bench.

Stone and gravel fire pit accessories

  • White futons and a patio
  • Geometrical concrete shapes
  • Fireglass
  • A white futon

Stone is very versatile and varies from natural looking too polished and very smooth and modern designs.

Let’s start out with something natural and grungy. Shaded textured concrete work well with any fire elements. Even in small spaces, you can replace the log with a gas installation covered in dark lava rock and you have a dark but warm Victorian theme, especially with some forged steel elements. Add some dark moss and some long bushes to complete the look.

Encircle the fire with a large marble table top and cover it with fire glass for a clean, modern and very functional fire feature that you can work with almost any themed yard. Use a linear or rectangular fire source to add some volume. Have a look at our fire pit inspirational guide for more examples here.

Reverse the contrast by using more textured, darker marble surfaces for a smaller yard and add some shiny river rocks on top of the gas fire element to brighten up the small scene, literally.

Inspired by nature

Fieldstone is a rugged earth rock and deserves a special mention. As a fire pit accessory use it in combination with logs and dark tones like forged steel to complete the old Victorian look. Top your brick seats with it to make the whole arrangement more natural. Build the fire pit out of it and get a primeval stove that will be unforgettable.

The great unifier

Just over the scenes in this article. Look how many have a gravel background. But I bet you didn’t notice, did you.

That’s the amazing function of gravel, it will ground those artificial elements in a scene and give the impression that’s it’s a natural scenery. Take a look at some of the less impressive fire pit accessories. I bet they are the ones where you don’t have the gravel background.

You should always use gravel as a foundation for your landscaping, fire pits, lounge chairs or pizza ovens. It just displays the asset better than the ground by it’self.

Have your square granite coffee table with the middle carved out and replaced by a fire feature. Have simple black lounge chairs. Be as bold and as modern as you want, and put everything on a bed of light, pale gravel.

I’ve just seen this installation in the North West and even in the dreary late January light, it looked exquisite. Minimalism works extremely well in winter or where you don’t get all that much sun and bright light.

Cheap and easy urban fire feature

Another option is to make the gravel burn. It’s the cheapest option for a common yard. Just make some fire retardant walls for a simple gravel pit and run a gas installation under it. Use brick backgrounds for something understated or fieldstone for some additional visual punch. But its flaming gravel, you won’t need to try all that hard to make it stand out among the usual blank features of an urban back yard.

Glass fire pit accessories

  • Matte plastic elements and bodies
  • Marble and elegant natural rocks
  • Concrete surfaces and simple geometrical elements

Combine with matte plastics, ceramics, and smooth cold concrete for a high fashion look and feel. Be bold and sparse or have small frequent sources of glimmer, your choice.

This small accent needs balancing out but is such a nice natural pair with a natural source of light. The movement of the fire is essential and makes all the difference between just some shine and some dramatic movement.

The most bang for your buck

This also happens to be the cheapest material on this list, because unlike concrete or sheet metal you don’t need any DIY fire pit building skills or tools.

And probably the most versatile. Sort of…

Let’s be clear, you do not pair dark mahogany fireplaces with azure blue fireglass. So you still have to have a sense of it. The basic rule of thumb, pale goes with strong and use the same color tone for more flexibility and leeway between accent and counterpoint color.

Use light Bahama blue glass, with dark moody finishings or take some liberties with the scene and pair that burgundy boudoir with some intense ruby red fireglass that will actually brighten up the dramatic room.

Glass can also work as a countertop for very minimalist tabletop fire pits. If you have a cool, zen garden this is the ideal way you can add some depth to your design without ruining the somber mood as the glass isn’t very reflective but it’s also far from matte and absorbent.

Shadows again

An even bolder use of glass is to use a mirror, keep it out of direct sight because it is very distracting. Keep it on an angle from the fire so that it catches it’s light and beams it back up lighting up the background and bringing it to life, almost literally as the moving hand light will cast some very strong moving shadows that create an amazing 3D effect that make the backdrop jump at the viewer, everything from simple potted plants to 3 feet hedges that aren’t all that well-kempt become a tridimensional living thriller even in evening sunlight.

This is however very dependent on your angles. Most yards or patios can’t pull it off because there aren’t any blind spots to stash away the mirror. But if you do have a weird angular garden or yard, this is the best way to turn that weird abandoned extension into an asset.

Fire pit accessories based on location

Different textures have a certain heaviness to them. You can only have so much weight to any given square footage before the space becomes crowded and heavy.

For example, a log bench works in the great outdoors, but it will be too much fast on a suburban yard and be absurd in an inner city backyard.

This is why I prefer artificial elements like concrete, plastics or brick. They are very versatile and with the same bricks you can build a mini amphitheater in large spaces and lounge around the fire like Romans or build a knee-high brick wall for sitting in the middle of an inner city herb garden.

Fire pit accessories for small space

I’m talking about really tight alleys or yards where you can’t fit 2 large family cars.

Get a small fire feature, maybe just a clay planter and fill it up with lava rock. Leave it to the side to just flicker some background light. Surround ¾ of it with large foliage or some other interesting shapes. By using the light around it and getting some interesting shadows cast, you get a lot of depth added to the small space.

For a background, get some pea gravel, surround your fiery planter and start tracing a pathway so your design has some orientation. There should be 3 points, the entry, the sitting area and the fire and they should be obvious due to the gravel.

For sitting, pick between brick, concrete log and steel seats. I like bricks because they are cheeky and add a character that isn’t out of context in an urban setting. Maximize verticality and go for high seats. The cheapest option would be DIY and with the addition of some rocks or stained concrete top, it would also be the best looking, but for a quick and easy fix, go for stainless steel chairs.

As for orientation, the horizon if you have it, but a secondary choice is an entrance or lengthwise along the space to get the most amount of debt. The orientation should be obvious in most small yards, try to get foreground, mid-ground, and background in the viewers perspective. If necessary add small design elements to help them remember that there is both a foreground and mid ground. I like curved paths but they do blend the foreground and mid ground a lot and you end up with a compressed perspective. Add blocky tiles that segment perspective and get the opposite effect.

Fire pit accessories for suburban yards

This one is for people that would struggle to host a basketball game in their yard, so most people.

Unless you want to spend a lot of money and detail stay within the mood and the climate. If you’re in a tropical climate use that, go from clean smooth Spanish design to romantic Arab or Polynesian. There’s a lot of diversity within one climate area design wise, forcing a temperate forest northwestern feel will almost never feel right and will cost exponentially more.

Play with the dimensions, curves, and lines, move the eye from left to right with some accents, like a bright flower arrangement or a tall bright chiminea, and then lead it with gravel, stones or some large foliage across the horizon. Boxes are boxes, if you’ve seen one square yard, you’ve seen them all, but each trip the eye makes is an experience, as simple as that may be but it’s always more than just a rectangular space.

Ideally, you want to have a primary fire and a mood gas fire in the background or relegated to the sides. Have a central sitting area. Go as wild as you want it to be, just keep it in theme and proportions. Patio furniture is again the go to a quick fix, but please consider brick especially if you have a larger yard.

Please do use curved lines punctuated by flower beds and extend the gathering area to take in as much of the yard as you need. As you’ve seen we can do a lot with limited space by playing with perspective, but we can’t compress people. So add a lounge area, a fire pit, a dining area and a grilling area in a interesting stretched out way, as long as you integrate the features into the environment it won’t take anything away and it will add so much life to your garden when you have a party, that you won’t believe.

Fire pit accessories for large spaces

….Large properties, edge of the woods, or a whole forest for a backyard.

First of all, abuse gravel pathways and spread out the points of interest. You have space, no reason why your grill should be feet away from your seating area that is in splashing distance from your water feature.Please use the environment. That’s the perfect background for landscaping. Don’t hide it. Create a transitional area that is very man-made and artificial, maybe even modern if you wish, then create mid-ground elements that blend man-made foreground and the wild background.

Concrete, steps, walls and art features if you want to have a modern foreground like a polished steel propane gas grill. The important thing is that the view will always end with nature, so whatever you want to make out of your foreground you need a mid ground to ease the transition. If you keep this in mind you can have as modern of a patio as you want and it will integrate seamless into your environment.